Syria pushes to keep its chemical weapons factories

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem has asked international inspectors to spare a dozen of its chemical weapons factories from the wrecking ball, The Cable has learned. The Syrians say they want to convert the plants into civilian chemical facilities. But the move is fueling concern among some non-proliferation experts that Damascus may be seeking to maintain the industrial capacity to reconstitute its chemical weapons program at some later date.

The Syrian request — which was contained in a confidential letter from Muallem to Ahmet Üzümcü, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons — has also raised concern among some Western governments that Syria may seek to entangle the inspection agency in lengthy negotiations that could drag out the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons.

The OPCW — which, along with the United Nations, is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program — has frequently allowed states that volunteer to eliminate their nerve agent plants to convert the facilities into a production for vaccines, medicines, and other life-saving products. But states must first make a “compelling” case to justify the preservation of such a facility. …

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