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OPCW: Delays in Syrian Chemical Weapons Removal

Watchdog organization disposing of Syrian chemical arsenal says technical difficulties will delay Dec 31 'priority' weapon deadline.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 12/9/2013, 2:18 PM

(Illustration)
(Illustration)
Thinkstock

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced Sunday that the removal of chemical weapons from Syria will likely be delayed due to technical difficulties.

OPCW's recent roadmap stipulates that "priority" weapons must be removed from Syria by December 31.

However, OPCW director Ahmet Uzumcu told AFP on Sunday that the deadline "may not be possible, perhaps because of the technical issues that we have encountered."

It was announced last week that the US will destroy the most dangerous "priority" components of Syria's chemical weapon stockpile at sea. However, reports revealed that the system for destroying the weapons has not yet been tested at sea. Furthermore, experts note that the dumping may cause serious pollution to the Mediterranean sea.

Uzumcu, in acknowledging the delay, said "a few days delay wouldn’t be much from my point of view," adding that he was "confident that we will be able to meet the deadline of June 2014 to destroy all chemical weapons in Syria."

Syrian President Bashar Assad in September agreed to give up his chemical arsenal to avoid a potential US military strike that was weighed following a sarin gas attack near Damascus that killed over 1,000 people, many of them civilians.

Just last Thursday opposition forces claimed Assad used chemical weapons again, this time in the rebel-held town of Nabak, 68 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Damascus.

Uzumcu's comments came from Oslo, where he will receive a Nobel Peace Prize on Tuesday on behalf of OPCW. The organization has been active in Syria since October.