Destruction of Syria's Chemical Weapons Nearly Complete
Syria has nearly completed surrendering its chemical weapons stockpile, a joint task force in charge of the operation said Thursday, according to AFP.
"Today's operation brings the total of chemical material removed and destroyed to 92.5 percent," the combined Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN task team said in a statement.
Damascus had pledged to have all of its stockpile removed from the war-ravaged country by Sunday. The weapons are then due to be destroyed by June 30.
The consignment of chemicals were delivered to the main Syrian port of Latakia, from where it will be removed by cargo ships for delivery to the U.S. Navy vessel Cape Ray for destruction.
Syrian authorities also "destroyed buildings, equipment and empty mustard gas containers", the OPCW-UN statement said, according to AFP.
"A majority of (storage and productions) sites are now closed," the joint mission said.
"I welcome the significant progress of the last three weeks and I strongly encourage the Syrian authorities to conclude removal operations as part of their efforts to achieve the June 30 deadline," the mission's chief Sigrid Kaag was quoted as having said.
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.
Joy Ogwu, Nigeria ambassador who holds the rotating presidency, said members "expressed concern about alleged reports about the use of chlorine gas in some of the towns, which left people dead and injured, and called for an investigation into this incident."
France and the United States allege that President Bashar Al-Assad's forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on a rebel-held village in central Hama province earlier this month.
The U.S. has already announced that it officially opened an investigation into claims of more chemical attacks in Syria.
There have been conflicting accounts of the alleged chlorine attack on Kafr Zita, with the government and the opposition trading blame.
Activists have also reported other chlorine gas attacks, most recently in Idlib province, in the northwest, on Monday.
Damascus has denied any part in the attacks.