U.S. skeptical over Syria chemical deceleration, top official says

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The United States has strong doubts about Syria’s declaration of its chemical arsenal to the international chemical weapons watchdog, a top U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday.

Samantha Power, Washington’s U.N. envoy, said experience in dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has led to U.S. “skepticism.”

The U.S. official said American experts are studying the 700-page deceleration made to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and are checking its accuracy.

Assad had agreed to destroy all his chemical arms by mid-2014 as part of a Russia-U.S. deal that headed off the threat of a U.S. military strike on Syria.

Damascus has also met a deadline to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities and been praised for its cooperation by international inspectors.

But “more work of course remains to be done to ensure that the Syrian government's list of declared sites is comprehensive and that the process remains on track, particularly as we enter the destruction phase,” Power said.

Other U.S. officials said Washington is concerned that the Assad government could try to retain some of its stockpiles.

“There are some indications that certain elements of the Syrian regime want to preserve their chemical weapons stockpiles,” one such official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

But the officials said the U.S. administration has full confidence in OPCW inspectors and any Syrian breach of its obligations would be dealt with “through diplomatic channels.”

“There are some officials who don’t think the Syrians will complete the destruction of their chemical weapons,” said a second official, and there are others “who are cautiously optimistic that will happen.”

(with AFP)

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