DAMASCUS, Syria —
The group is to travel to Damascus on Tuesday to begin its ambitious task — a complex and potentially explosive mission fraught with security challenges. They are expected to meet with Syrian Foreign Ministry officials on arrival.
Inspectors at The Hague said Sunday the inspectors' priority is to achieve the first milestone of helping the country scrap its ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a Nov. 1 deadline, using every means possible.
That may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.
Some of the inspectors will be double-checking Syria's initial disclosure of what weapons and chemical precursors it has and where they are located. Others will begin planning the logistics for visits to every location where chemicals or weapons are stored.
Within a week a second group of inspectors will arrive — fewer than 100 combined — and form teams that will fan out to individual sites. Their routes are secret — both for their safety and because Syria has the right not to reveal its military secrets, including base locations.
The inspectors have about nine months to find and dismantle an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal that took years to build — the shortest deadline they have ever faced in any nation, and their first mission in a country at war.
On Monday, another U.N. team of inspectors charged with investigating alleged chemical attack sites concluded its almost weeklong mission in Syria and headed to Lebanon, where they boarded flights back home. The U.N. said Friday the team was to investigate a total of seven locations.
The team initially visited Syria last month to investigate three alleged chemical attacks earlier this year. But just days into the visit, the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta was hit by a chemical weapons attack, and the inspectors turned their attention to that case. The inquiry determined that the nerve agent sarin was used in the Aug. 21 attack, but it did not assess who was behind it.