Signaling that he may be serious about giving up his chemical weapons, Syrian President Bashar Assad has disclosed the locations of dozens of poison gas production and storage sites to international inspectors, according to Western officials.
Officials familiar with Assad's disclosure - the first step in complying with an ambitious U.S.-Russian plan to seize, remove or destroy his arsenal of chemical weapons by mid-2014 - described it Tuesday as "a serious document" that comprises scores of pages and is surprisingly thorough.
Information in the closely guarded document roughly tracks with U.S. intelligence estimates that Syria has about 45 sites used to produce or store illicit blister agents or neurotoxins. Nearly half those sites are believed to contain chemical agents that could be used in artillery rockets and other munitions.
Syria submitted the declaration last weekend to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementation and compliance arm of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Until two weeks ago, Assad had refused to acknowledge that his military possessed chemical warfare agents.