The United States is looking at new classified intelligence indicating the Syrian government may not fully declare its chemical weapons stockpile, CNN has learned. That would mean Syria will still have a secret cache of chemical weapons after the agreed-upon destruction of its declared weapons is carried out.
The intelligence is not definitive, but “there are various threads of information that would shake our confidence,” one U.S. official said. “They have done things recently that suggest Syria is not ready to get rid of all their chemical weapons.”
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By Becky Bratu, Staff Writer, NBC News
Khaled Al-Hariri / Reuters
U.N. vehicles transporting a team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) return to their hotel in Damascus on Oct. 6.
A team of international experts began the process of destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on Sunday, according to the United Nations.
The group consists of international inspectors from the Netherlands-based watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons along with a U.N. team.
Under their supervision, “Syrian personnel used cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items,” said Eri Kaneko, associate spokeswoman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s office.
“This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment. The process will continue in the coming days,” she added.
The disarmament team arrived in Damascus on Tuesday.
Their mission follows a deadly chemical attack on Aug. 21 aimed at Damascus suburbs under the control of rebel fighters.
While the United States, its allies and the opposition blame the regime of the embattled President Bashar Assad for the attack that killed hundreds, the Syrian government has blamed the rebels.
The attack also prompted the Obama administration to threaten the Syrian regime with military strikes, which set off weeks of diplomatic negotiations that ended with a U.N. resolution on Sept. 27.
More than 100,000 have died since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 with demonstrations that have since degenerated into a bloody civil war.
By Erin McClam, Staff Writer, NBC News
“NEW YORK — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that his country poses “absolutely no threat to the world,” and sanctions that have crippled its economy are “violent — pure and simple.”
In his first address to the world body, hours after President Barack Obama spoke, Rouhani also said he is prepared to engage in “time-bound” talks to resolve the dispute over Tehran‘s nuclear program.
Rouhani’s closely watched visit to the United Nations followed a series of diplomatic overtures the centrist-leaning cleric has made to the West since he was elected to replace hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he stressed his moderate credentials.”
President Obama and his Iranian counterpart will both be at the U.N. on Tuesday, and any interaction could be game-changing for two countries whose leaders haven’t met in three decades.