Syria slow to ship chemical weapons

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iol pic wld  Mideast Syria

AP

In this photo released on October 24, 2013 by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a chemical weapons expert works at a chemical weapons plant at an unknown location in Syria.

The Hague - Less than five percent of the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's arsenal have left the country and Damascus will be pressured to move faster, sources close to the world's chemical watchdog said Wednesday.

Just two shipments of around 16 metric tonnes each of so-called Category 1 chemicals have left Syria's port of Lattakia this month as part of an internationally-backed disarmament plan supervised by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

That means less than five percent of the around 700 tonnes of chemicals that were supposed to have left Syria by December 31 last year have left the country, putting the ambitious disarmament project weeks behind schedule.

The sources said that an OPCW Executive Council meeting in The Hague on Thursday would try to put pressure on the Syrians and “remind them of their obligations”, ahead of a June 30 deadline for the destruction of all of Syria's dangerous chemicals.

The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to eliminate Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after a massive chemical attack near Damascus that Washington blamed on the regime.

Under the agreement, Syria's entire chemical arsenal is to be eliminated by June 30.

Syria has declared around 700 tonnes of most-dangerous chemicals, 500 tonnes of less-dangerous precursor chemicals and around 122 tonnes of isopropanol in its arsenal.

Almost all the chemicals and precursors, except for isopropanol which is to be destroyed within the war-torn country, are supposed to be removed by February 5.

“It's almost certain that deadline will not be met,” a source close to the matter told AFP.

The around 120 tonnes of isopropanol must be destroyed by March 1.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been battling rebels for nearly three years, following his government's brutal crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising that began in March 2011.

Sapa-AFP


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