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Weapons Expert Sees 'Constructive Beginning' In Syria

A second team of international inspectors is being deployed to Syria, where the process of destroying chemical weapons-producing facilities began Sunday. Syria faces a November deadline for demolishing its production equipment; the first weapons team arrived in the country on Oct. 1.

The work to rid Syria of chemical weapons is a joint effort of the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Speaking at a high-level meeting of the OPCW on Tuesday, its director-general, Ahmet Üzümcü, said the teams are making progress, noting that Syria has provided more information about its weapons program.

"These developments present a constructive beginning for what will nonetheless be a long and difficult process," he said.

Syria and the weapons experts "are on a tight deadline to destroy more than 1,000 tons of nerve gas and banned weapons within a year," NPR's Deborah Amos reported this past weekend.

The inspectors are also beginning the process of dismantling Syria's chemical arsenal as a civil war continues to inflict casualties and damage. The OPCW says it has reached an agreement with the U.N. over security and logistics arrangements for the weapons experts.

The plan to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons arsenal emerged from talks between the United States and Russia last month. At trade meetings in Indonesia on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that his country and the U.S. agree on how to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons. Putin spoke with Secretary of State Kerry at the meetings.

"President Putin told reporters at the APEC summit in Bali that the Russians and Americans have 'a common understanding of what needs to be done in Syria and how,' " NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

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