Middle East

Syria vows chemical disarmament despite missed deadlines

A view of the Italian port of Gioia Tauro, in the southern region of Calabria on February 4, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Filippo MONTEFORTE

DAMASCUS: Syria said Wednesday it remains committed to destroying its chemical weapons despite "difficulties" caused by its conflict, as it missed another deadline under an international deal which averted US military action.

"Difficulties that Syria faces, particularly in the framework if its fight against terrorism, may at times prevent it from implementing some of its commitments," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad.

But the Syrian government is committed to the deal under which it must turn over all its chemical weapons by mid-2014, he said, quoted by state news agency SANA.

Despite the delays, Muqdad said Syria was working "with determination, strength and credibility to fully implement the agreements with the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW)."

The comments came as Syria missed another key deadline in the process of dismantling and destroying its chemical arsenal.

It was due to have removed all so-called "category two" chemicals, among the less dangerous of those its possesses, from its territory.

Asked in The Hague if the deadline had been met, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told AFP: "There is no reason to comment. The situation is evident."

In addition to 700 tonnes of the most lethal chemicals -- that should have left the war-wracked country on December 31 -- 500 tonnes of "category two" chemicals was supposed to have been shipped out by Wednesday.

Just two small shipments of chemicals have left the Syrian port of Latakia, accounting for less than four percent of the country's declared arsenal of most dangerous chemicals, the United States said last month.

The UN Security Council last year backed a US-Russian deal to destroy Syria's vast chemical arsenal as a way to avert US strikes threatened after chemical attacks 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, which can be used to make sarin.

Syria's ally Russia has played down the delays, saying on Tuesday that another stockpile would be shipped out this month.

"I would not dramatise the disarmament issue," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

"Literally yesterday the Syrians announced that they are planning to move out a large amount of chemical substances in February," he added.

"They are ready to complete this process by March 1, in accordance with the deadlines set by the OPCW."





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