Syria chemical deadline ‘to be missed’

Russia says that plans to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile will not be achieved by Dec. 31

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A deadline to rid Syria of its chemical arsenal will not be met, a Russian diplomat was quoted as saying on Friday, as the toxins have yet to be delivered to a Syrian port.

According to a deal struck by Russia and the United states earlier this year, Damascus agreed to transport the “most critical” chemicals, including around 20 tons of mustard nerve agent, out of the northern port of Latakia by Dec. 31 to be safely destroyed abroad away from the war zone.

“The removal has not yet begun,” RIA news agency quoted Mikhail Ulyanov as saying after an international meeting on the chemical arms removal effort.

Toxins that can be used to make sarin, VX gas and other agents were being packed up and still faced a potentially hazardous trip to the port of Latakia, Reuters news agency reported.

“They will have to be taken on dangerous roads, there are several dangerous stretches,” RIA quoted Ulyanov, head of the Foreign Ministry’s disarmament department, as saying.

Russia, which has given Assad crucial support during the nearly three-year-old civil conflict in Syria, airlifted 75 armored vehicles and trucks to the nation last week to carry chemicals to Latakia.

The head of that global chemicals weapon watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also said earlier this month that the deadline could be missed.

Ulyanov also said experts from several countries, the United Nations and OPCW had reached a “common understanding of the main points” of a plan to get the toxins from the port into international waters, but gave no details.

(With Reuters)

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