Chemical watchdog warns of Syria delay

Syria’s “priority” chemical weapons have to be removed from the country by Dec. 31

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The international chemical weapons watchdog warned on Sunday that the transportation of Syria’s chemical arsenal out of the country could be delayed by a few days due to technical difficulties.

A roadmap that was adopted earlier this month by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove Syria’s chemical stockpile says “priority” weapons have to be removed from the country by Dec. 31.

“This may not be possible perhaps because of the technical issues that we have encountered,” OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu said on arrival in Oslo, where he will on Tuesday receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of his organization, Agence France-Presse reported.

“But... a few days delay wouldn’t be much from my point of view.”

Despite the possible delay, Uzumcu said he was “confident that we will be able to meet the deadline of June 2014 to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria,” according to AFP.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed in September to give up his country’s chemicals weapons stockpile to avert a the threat of U.S. missile strikes following a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people outside the capital Damascus.

In total, 1,290 tons of chemical weapons, ingredients and precursors are to be destroyed.

A team of U.N.-OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October, checking Syria’s weapons and facilities.

Last week, the United States has offered to destroy some of the components on a U.S. ship and was looking for a Mediterranean port for the process.

The operation will destroy what is known as “priority chemical weapons,” the most dangerous of Syria’s total arsenal and ones that have to be out of the country by Dec. 31. All other declared chemical materials are to be eliminated by June 30.

On Oct. 22, the Norwegian Nobel committee named the OPCW as its 2013 peace laureate for its role in dismantling chemical weapons.

(With AFP)

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