Syria ‘has given up a third of chemical arms’

Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW says regime has provided new plan to clear its entire stockpile by end of April.

Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog has said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague on Tuesday said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents it declared as part of a Russian-US deal struck last year.

The OPCW said it had confirmed two more shipments headed for the northern Syrian port of Latakia. They are to be transferred to the US ship, the MV Cape Ray, and commercial destruction facilities in the UK and Germany.

Syria had also submitted a revised plan to remove all chemicals from its territory by the end of April 2014, the OPCW said. That proposal was being negotiated at an executive council meeting at the OPCW on Tuesday.

An OPCW spokesman, Sigrid Kaag, told the AP news agency that the agreed 60-day timetable would accelerate and intensify efforts.

Kaag said. “But of course our message is always one of continued expectation to achieve more, to do more and to do it safely and securely.”

But Western diplomats said the revised timetable was too slow for several Western countries, which say the chemical agents must be shipped out by the end of March if a final June 30 deadline agreed for complete destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme is to be met.

The US said it needed 90 days to destroy roughly 500 metric tonnes of the most poisonous substances in the arsenal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria declared a total of 1,300 metric tonnes of chemical weapons to the OPCW, which is jointly overseeing the destruction process with the UN.

Source: Reuters