BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria preparing to send chemical arms to Iraq: rebels

FILE - In this August 21, 2013, citizen journalism file image provided by the Local Committee of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrian citizens trying to identify dead bodies, after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists in Arbeen town, Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen, File)

BEIRUT: Preparations are under way to move “quantities” of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal to Iraq, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said in remarks published Thursday.

Louai Miqdad told the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that the weapons transfer would take place under the supervision of the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s army, and with the knowledge of the Iraqi government of MP Nour al-Maliki.

“No one knows the amount of these weapons or the storage sites,” he said, while expressing skepticism about the Russian offer to put Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control so that they could eventually be destroyed.

Miqdad argued that the Russian offer, made during talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart Walid Moallem who welcomed the initiative, could turn into an “international license for the use of chemical weapons.”

He cited concerns that while Syrian President Bashar Assad would hand over some of his chemical arms stockpile, the Syrian leader would “certainly keep a quantity for use later.”

The U.S. State Department has said it would take a "hard look" at the Russian proposal but added it was "skeptical" that Syria would follow through.

 

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