BEIRUT

Middle East

Chlorine likely used in Syria: chemical weapons watchdog

BEIRUT: Chlorine gas was likely used in the war raging in Syria, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog working with the U.N. to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical stocks, said its finding was based on a preliminary report that was prepared despite a “grave incident which prevented the fact-finding mission [FFM] from conducting an important field visit.”

“The information that was available to the FFM lends credence to the view that toxic chemicals – most likely pulmonary irritating agents, such as chlorine – have been used in Syria,” it said.

It was referring to an attack on OPCW personnel when they tried to carry out their mission in the village of Kafr Zeita in Hama province in late May.

The OPCW did not say who was behind the use of chlorine gas.

Anti-regime activists have alleged that chlorine gas dropped by helicopters in crude “barrel bombs” were used by the Assad regime on several different occasions in Kafr Zeita and several other locations in Hama and next-door Idlib province in recent months.

OPCW’s director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, and the head of the OPCW-U.N. mission, Sigrid Kaag, updated the body on progress on Damascus’ drive to rid itself of chemicals.

Uzumcu also said “ongoing delays in transporting the remaining 8 percent of chemicals mean that Syria will miss the target date of June 30 for the complete destruction of its chemical weapons program.”

Syria agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons and stockpiles in the wake of a chemical attack near Damascus that is believed to have claimed hundreds of lives.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 18, 2014, on page 8.

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