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Syria 'can meet' chemical weapons deadline

Official says weapons have to be taken out of Syria by April 27 if June deadline to destroy them is to be met.

Last updated: 04 Apr 2014 18:29
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Seventy-two containers filled with chemical weapons are ready to be transferred out of Syria, UN official says [EPA]

The head of the mission for destroying Syria's chemical weapons has told the United Nations Security Council that Syria can still meet the April 27 deadline to remove all chemical agents out of the country that are due to be destroyed by June 30, UN diplomats said.

Syria has suspended the transfers for what it says are security reasons, but last Sunday said it planned to resume them in the "coming days", the AFP news agency reported.

Sigrid Kaag, coordinator for the international operation to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, warned the council on Thursday that any further delay would make it "increasingly challenging" to stick to the June 30 deadline, according to diplomats cited by AFP.

"Assuming that operations restart immediately, operations could be achieved on time," diplomats quoted her as saying.

"I have repeated to Syrian authorities the need for a swift resumption of the removal operation. Operations have to restart immediately," she reportedly said.

'Containers ready for shipment'

According to diplomats, Kaag said there were 72 containers filled with chemical weapons ready to be transferred to the main Syrian port of Latakia for shipment out of the country, adding that their removal from the country would account for 90 percent of the country's stockpile.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a report to the UN last week that the total percentage of chemicals either removed or destroyed inside the war-torn country is 53.6 percent. T

he report said Syria pledged to remove all chemicals by April 13, except for those in areas "that are presently inaccessible", which face an April 27 deadline.

Damascus agreed to give up its chemical weapons in September under a deal to ward off the threat of US air strikes.

The agreement was reached after deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus last August that the West blamed on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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