A team of international experts has arrived in Damascus to begin the process of inspecting Syria's chemical weapons stockpile - while one of Bashar al-Assad's closest aides has derided the rebels as barbarians who "eat human hearts."
The disarmament team, from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, are tasked with identifying and destroying nearly 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard gas and other chemical substances across Syria by mid-2014.
As a first step in their mission, the 20-strong OPCW team will attempt to prevent the regime from producing any further chemical arms.
The inspectors are confident that Assad's government has provided accurate details about the size and location of its chemical weapons stockpile. One official told AFP that "at this point, we have absolutely no reason to doubt the information provided by the Syrian regime."
Meanwhile Assad's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem has told the UN General Assembly in New York that al-Qaida-backed rebels eat human hearts and sever the limbs of their victims alive before send them to their families.
Moualem also took the opportunity to criticise the countries which are indirectly backing the opposition groups.
He said: "It is a war against terror that recognises no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws.
"The cessation of aggressive policies against Syria is the first step on the road towards the solution in my country. Any political solution in light of the continued support of terrorism, whether through supplying arms, funding or training, is mere illusion and misleading."