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Syria's Assad pledges compliance on chemical weapons

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised to adhere to a UN accord committing his country to dismantling its chemical weapons. Inspectors of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are due shortly.

Assad said on Sunday that his government was committed to honoring its promise that chemical weapons would be destroyed.

However Assad told the Italian news broadcaster RAI News 24 that he foresaw problems with the operation, with rebels likely to hinder the process. Assad also said it was his government's own will to ensure that chemical weapons were eradicated from the country.

“We joined the international treaty on prohibition of chemical weapons even before this resolution was passed ... It is not about the UN resolution, but about our will," he said.

"Of course, we'll abide because our history shows our abidance by every treaty we sign," Syria's state television quoted Assad as saying. "Our job is to provide data and facilitate procedures, but there are technical problems: How to reach those places in the presence of terrorists ready to throw any obstacle."

Inspectors begin work

The remarks came just ahead of the arrival in Syria of the 20-member team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The group was set to arrive in Syria on Monday to begin the process of cataloguing Damascus' chemical weapons arsenal.

Assad said his government would "quite obviously" give assistance to the team.

The United Nations says the experts aim to have a comprehensive report ready "by late October." The document is also to cover the August 21 attack in Damascus suburbs that the United States claims killed some 1,400 people.

The Security Council on Friday passed a resolution on Friday ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, and condemning the Damascus attack. Resolution 2118 makes a plan drawn up to eliminate Assad's chemical arms legally binding.

Meanwhile, at least 16 people were reported to have died on Sunday in the rebel-held city of Raqqa when a government air raid struck a high school, killing at least 12 people. At least eight of the dead were said to have been students, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

rc/pfd (dpa, Reuters, AFP)