Syria Chemical Weapons Team Requests Truce

Nobel prize-winning team dismantling Assad's chemical weapons arsenal says it can't do its job while fighting continues.

Adam Ross ,

UN chemical inspectors in Syria
UN chemical inspectors in Syria

The Head of the team dismantling Syria's chemical weapons has asked for a truce in the fighting to allow it to pass through areas currently under fire.

Speaking to the BBC Monday morning, Ahmet Uzumcu, who leads the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, (OPCW) called for local, short-term ceasefires to allow experts to work.

Uzumcu said the team was progressing well and had seen five out of 20 sites capable of manufacturing chemical weapons, but said it was now being hindered by not being able to travel through areas where fighting raged between the Syrian army and rebel forces.

He told the BBC that a temporary ceasefire would allow his team to travel across the parts of the country held by rebel forces, and said that one site of particular interest was an abandoned factory located in a rebel-held area.

"Areas change hands from one day to another," Uzumcu said "which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be co-operative and not render this mission more difficult. It's already challenging."

The OPCW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week for its work in Syria which began on 1st October. 60 experts have been based in Damascus carrying regular visits to facilities to confiscate what is estimated to be some 100 tons of chemical weapons materials.

In a Russian brokered deal Syria agreed to sign up to the chemical weapons convention and to allow its arsenal of poisonous gases and materials to be destroyed. The deal prevented a US led attack on Syria following the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons on a Damascus suburb on 21 August that killed hundreds.

Syria is believed to have one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles in the world, and the largest in the Middle East.