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Syria to Miss Yet Another Deadline in Chemical Weapons Operation

Sources at the OPCW predict that Damascus will miss March 15 deadline to destroy 12 declared production facilities.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/7/2014, 4:15 AM

Syria chemical weapons
Syria chemical weapons
Thinkstock

In yet another setback to the operation to destroy Damascus’ chemical weapons arsenal, sources at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday that Syria will miss a major deadline next week.

Reuters reported that Syria has until March 15 to destroy 12 declared production facilities.

"That will definitely be missed," an official involved in discussions with Syria, referring to the March 15 deadline, was quoted as having said.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said there were seven "hardened" aircraft hangars and five underground facilities. "None of them have been destroyed at the moment," the official said.

Syrian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The international operation to destroy Syria’s stockpile of deadly chemicals 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.

Damascus has until June 30 to eliminate its chemical weapons program completely, but has already failed to meet a deadline of February 5 to move all of its declared chemical substances and precursors out of the country.

Syria recently submitted a new 100-day plan for the removal of its chemical weapons.

Sources at OPCW further added that while the Syrians have increased the handover of poisonous agents, including a shipment of mustard gas this week, it will not meet a March 30 deadline to neutralize all the chemicals overseas.

Syria is not taking the deadline for the destruction of production facilities seriously, another source at the OPCW told Reuters on Thursday.

"They are not doing things in the timeframe they promised they would," the source said. "The process is in volatile waters."

On Wednesday, Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator for the joint UN-OPCW mission, said that March will be a "critical" month for Syria if it is to maintain its timetable for dismantling its chemical weapons arsenal.

Recently, 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.