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Syria still has ‘8 percent of its chemical arms’

The OPCW announced Syria still had 8 percent of its chemical arms as the deadline expired for the arsenal to be handed over

Published: Updated:

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced on Sunday Syria still has 8% of its chemical arms as the deadline expired for the arsenal to be handed over.

"We are talking of the remaining 7.8 percent chemical weapon material that is currently still in country in one particular site," Sigrid Kaag, head of the combined OPCW-U.N. task team, told a news conference.

Damascus needs to "acquit itself of its commitments," Kaag said, adding that there has been "very constructive cooperation."

The Sunday deadline comes as the United States has expressed concern over reports that Syrian forces have used chlorine gas as a weapon. The Syrian government has previously not committed to deadlines set by the OPCW.

Other Western states have reportedly suggested that the Syrian government will still maintain the capability to produce chemical weapons, despite the handover of its entire stockpile.

The allegations, based on intelligence from Britain, France and the United States, could strengthen claims that Syria’s military recently used chlorine gas in its civil war.

“We are convinced, and we have some intelligence showing, that they have not declared everything,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters news agency, adding that the intelligence had come from the three countries.

But when asked how much of its program Syria has kept hidden, the diplomat said: “It’s substantial.” He offered no details to the news agency.

The verification of Syria’s declaration on its poison gas arsenal and its destruction has been overseen by a joint team of the United Nations and the OPCW, the global chemical arms watchdog.

Syria has denied it maintains the capacity to deploy chemical weapons, calling the allegation a U.S. and European attempt to use their “childish” policies to blackmail Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

In response to allegations from the West, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told Reuters: “These countries aren’t really reliable and their policies towards the implementation of the agreement between the Syrian government and the OPCW aren’t principled but rather childish.”

“If they have some evidence they must share it with the OPCW rather than pretending to have secret evidence!”