Middle East

No signs Syria is handing over remaining chemical weapons

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard speaks to media in front of containers, carrying precursors to sarin gas, part of the effort to extract chemical weapon stockpiles from Syria, on the vessel Ark Futura a Danish cargo ship docked in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Staff

AMSTERDAM: Syria has made no progress in relinquishing a last batch of chemical weapons it says is inaccessible due to fighting, making it increasingly likely it will miss a final deadline to destroy its toxic stockpile, Britain said on Thursday.

The British deputy representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told delegates in The Hague that packaging material had arrived for the 100 metric tonnes of toxic chemicals.

"But there is still no sign of any movement of chemicals, nor any indications of a time scale for a move," said the statement, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, embroiled in civil war with rebels fighting to oust him, agreed last year to hand over the country's entire chemical weapons stockpile after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack near Damascus.

The agreement with Russia and the United States averted Western military strikes threatened in response to the worst chemical weapons atrocity in decades, which has been blamed by Washington on Assad's government.

His government, which denies the allegation and blames the rebels, still has roughly 7 percent of 1,300 tonnes it declared to the OPCW, enough highly toxic material to carry out a large-scale attack.

It has missed several deadlines, most recently its own promise to hand over the remaining chemicals by April 27. It has also failed to destroy a dozen facilities that were part of the chemical weapons programme.

Under the deal, Syria's entire stockpile is supposed to have been destroyed by mid 2014, but "it is growing ever clearer that the 30 June deadline will not be met," the British statement said.





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