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British PM: Destruction of Syria's Chemical Weapons Too Slow

British Prime Minister David Cameron expresses concern over the to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, says it is going too slow.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 2/6/2014, 3:45 AM

British Prime Minister David Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron
Reuters

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday expressed concern about the lack of progress in the operation to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, the BBC reports.

Efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons are slowing and information is being withheld from those overseeing it, said Cameron, adding the UK would continue to apply pressure "on all parties" to make sure Syria's chemical weapons stocks were eliminated.

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.

Two shipments of chemical weapons materials have left Syria so far, 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.

Britain is taking part in the operation as well, saying last month it planned to give the United States specialist equipment and training to help it destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal more quickly.

In a telephone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday, Cameron stressed the need to "continue promptly with the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons," the BBC reported.

The prime minister was asked in Parliament by senior Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell why the process had "fallen so badly behind."

Cameron replied, "I agree with you. After what was a very promising start with chemicals not only being discovered and removed but also destroyed, there do seem to be now indications that the program is slowing and that not all the information necessary is forthcoming.

"I discussed this issue in a telephone call with President Putin some 48 hours ago. Britain will continue to put pressure on all parties to make sure the chemical weapons are produced and destroyed," he added.

Last week, 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 destruction of his chemical arsenal.

"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.