Syria can still produce chemical arms, West warns

Photo: Syria can still produce chemical arms, West warns / Arabic region

Western intelligence has suggested that Syria still maintains an ability to deploy chemical weapons despite getting rid of more than 90 percent of its declared chemical stockpiles, a diplomat said on Friday.

The allegations, based on intelligence from Britain, France and the United States, could strengthen claims that Syria's military recently used chlorine gas in its civil war, Al Arabiya reported.

"We are convinced, and we have some intelligence showing, that they have not declared everything," a senior Western diplomat told Reuters news agency, adding that the intelligence had come from the three countries.

But when asked how much of its program Syria has kept hidden, the diplomat said: "It's substantial." He offered no details to the news agency.

The verification of Syria's declaration on its poison gas arsenal and its destruction has been overseen by a joint team of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the global chemical arms watchdog.

Syria has denied it maintains the capacity to deploy chemical weapons, calling the allegation a U.S. and European attempt to use their "childish" policies to blackmail Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

In response to allegations from the West, Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told Reuters: "These countries aren't really reliable and their policies towards the implementation of the agreement between the Syrian government and the OPCW aren't principled but rather childish."

"If they have some evidence they must share it with the OPCW rather than pretending to have secret evidence!"

Ja'afari said the three Western powers' goal was to needlessly extend the U.N.-OPCW mission by "keeping the 'chemical file' open indefinitely so that they can keep exerting pressure and blackmailing the Syrian government."

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