BEIRUT

Middle East

Surrendering chemical arms not enough: U.S.

  • The wreckage of an armoured personnel carrier belonging to the forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen at al-Hamdeya neighborhood in Homs city May 9, 2014. (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)

WASHINGTON: Even after it surrenders 100 percent of its chemical weapons, Syria will have to take additional steps before achieving full compliance with commitments it made to eliminate its arsenal, the State Department’s top arms control official said Friday.

“I’ve been urging people not to declare victory when the last chemicals leave the country. 

We cannot do that,” said Rose Gottemoeller, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She added that Syria must also destroy facilities, including hangars and tunnels, associated with its program.

And she said there were unresolved “omissions” in the regime’s declaration of its chemical stockpile. She said those alleged discrepancies were being pursued by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which monitors implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria ratified the convention last year as part of the deal to eliminate its chemical arms. There also is a probe into reports of alleged chlorine gas use in some Syrian towns, causing deaths and injuries.

Gottemoeller said Syria had moved 92 percent of its chemical weapons stocks to port for shipment out of the country. She said the rest are at a single site near Damascus.

The head of the U.N. mission charged with destroying Syria’s chemical arms said Thursday the last 16 containers of chemical agents were in an area that was currently inaccessible due to the fighting.

The U.S. has a ship on standby to undertake the destruction of chemicals. The MV Cape Ray has on board two machines, called field deployable hydrolysis systems, which will mix the chemicals with heated water and other chemicals to break down the toxic weapons in a titanium reactor, making them inert.

 
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