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NATO Prepared to Help Destroy Syria's Chemical Weapons

Elements of NATO are ready to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, says official.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/3/2014, 3:43 AM

UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
UN chemical weapons experts in Syria
Reuters

Elements of NATO are ready to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, U.S. European Command chief Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told Al Arabiya  on Sunday.

“The international community, elements of NATO and the United States are prepared to destroy the chemical weapons,” Breedlove said.

“We have the existence requirements to address this issue in place, so we encourage Syria to be on schedule and on time to deliver the weapons, so we can get the task accomplished,” he added.

An international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals is currently underway, and is a joint Russian-U.S. plan that was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September.

The resolution was a last-minute measure to prevent an American strike on Syria in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on a Damascus suburb in August that left hundreds dead.

However, war, bad weather, bureaucracy and technical issues delayed a December 31 deadline for the removal of the most deadly toxins from Syria.

On Friday, in response to the delay, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad he could face consequences for failing to live up to international agreements on the issue.

"We now know that the Assad regime is not moving as rapidly as it promised to move the chemical weapons out of Syria," he said.

"I would remind Bashar Al-Assad that the agreement that we reached in New York with the (UN) Security Council makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes,"  added Kerry.

The first batch of chemical weapon materials was moved out of the country earlier this month, and a second shipment was removed last week, but the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said that Damascus had handed over less than five percent of the most dangerous chemicals in its possession.

General Breedlove urged for “less time” to “spend moving these weapons around,” to minimize their “threat” by reducing its “exposure.”

“So we encourage rapid, encourage prompt, encourage safe delivery of these weapons,” he told Al Arabiya.

A senior State Department official said that Kerry pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to put more pressure on Damascus to make real progress on destroying its chemical weapons arsenal and repeated his concerns about the humanitarian situation.