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Syria submits plan to destroy its chemical weapons: OPCW

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria has submitted a declaration of its chemical weapons program and a plan to eliminate them to the world's chemical weapons watchdog, the organization said on Sunday, meeting the first major deadline of the destruction plan.

Under a deal struck by the United States and Russia, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) sent experts to Syria after a sarin gas attack killed more than 1,400 people near Damascus in August.

The experts, supported by the United Nations, aim to oversee destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing equipment in Syria by November 1, and deal with all chemical weapons materials by the end of June 2014.

On Thursday, "the Syrian Arab Republic submitted to the OPCW its formal initial declaration covering its chemical weapons program" which "includes a general plan of destruction for consideration by the OPCW Executive Council", the watchdog said in a statement on Sunday.

"Syria's submission is in line with the deadline," it said.

The OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace Prize this month, did not give details of Syria's arsenal, which is estimated at around 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents.

The OPCW deployment under a U.N. mandate helped avert a U.S. strike against President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting an insurgency that started in 2011 when his forces cracked down on peaceful pro-democracy protests.

While the world's worst chemical weapons attack in 25 years may not be repeated in Syria after the arsenal has been destroyed, both Assad's forces and rebels continue to kill with conventional weapons daily.

(Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Alison Williams)

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