THE HAGUE: The world's chemical watchdog called Friday for Syria to "pick up the pace" in shipping out its chemical weapons stockpile after a key deadline was missed.
"The need for the process to pick up the pace is obvious," Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement after a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) executive council on Thursday in The Hague.
Just two small shipments of chemicals have so far 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 this week.
Around 700 tonnes of chemicals were supposed to have left Syria by December 31, putting the ambitious disarmament project weeks behind schedule.
Uzumcu earlier this month spoke to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and "they both agreed that it was necessary for the removal process to pick up pace," said an OPCW document published earlier this week.
Syria has told the OPCW that it is "making intensive efforts to prepare for, and accelerate, the transportation of chemicals, and that it is currently working on a tentative schedule for completing the transportation of 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 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.
Syrian President Bashar 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.