UN arms experts, wearing a gas mask, inspect a site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus.
UN arms experts, wearing a gas mask, inspect a site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus. Photo by Reuters
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Reuters
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Tishreen newspaper, a local and government-owned newspaper, in Damascus, October 6, 2013. Photo by Reuters

A United Nations official said Sunday that chemical weapons inspectors have begun destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile and machinery.

The official couldn't confirm what specifically was destroyed, but said that by the end of Sunday, a combination of both weapons and some production equipment would be put out of order. He spoke anonymously because of the matter's sensitivity.

The operation was being carried out by team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the BBC reported. 

UN experts charged with starting the process of verifying and eliminating chemical weapons arrived in Syria on Tuesday for the mission endorsed by the UN Security Council.

The UN mission, which Washington and Moscow hammered out after an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus prompted U.S. threats of air strikes against the Syrian government, is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.

More than 100,000 people have died in Syria's conflict, which began in early 2011 with peaceful demonstrations seeking more democracy but has deteriorated into sectarian civil war.

A German magazine is quoting Syria's President Bashar Assad as saying he has made mistakes and that no side in his country's civil war is entirely free of blame.

In an advance version of an interview to be published Sunday, Der Spiegel also quotes Assad as saying he doesn't believe in a negotiated peace with armed opposition groups.

"We all make mistakes," Assad is quoted in the article as saying.

On Saturday, Der Spiegel quoted Assad as referring to his U.S. counterpart, President Barack Obama, as a "liar" who "has nothing to offer but lies." He added that "the West would rather believe Al-Qaida than me."

In the report, Assad reiterated his insistence that government forces weren't responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus, and that UN inspectors will be granted "full access" to chemical sites.

The president is also quoted as saying that the Syrians will cooperate with the UN Security Council in its treatment of chemical weapons.