RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Syria has met a deadline for the destruction of chemical weapons production facilities, according to international monitors, in the biggest step so far under a United Nations disarmament plan.

President Bashar Assad's regime must now submit and have approved by Nov. 15 a detailed plan to eliminate its stockpiles, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said yesterday. The organization is satisfied that it has verified and seen destroyed all of Syria's declared "critical" production plants, it said.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal under a Russian initiative endorsed by the UN Security Council last month.

The deal led the United States to withdraw threats of military action to punish Assad's government for its alleged use of sarin gas near Damascus in August. Syrian opposition groups, who have been fighting to unseat Assad for 21/2 years, say the attack killed more than 1,400 people.

That initial step still leaves Syria with "its entire remaining stockpile of functioning chemical weapons," and has "little to no impact on their immediate capabilities," David Reeths, director at IHS Jane's Consulting, said yesterday in response to emailed questions.

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