Syria begins to move ‘remaining’ chemical arms

Arab World Materials 21 May 2014 11:57 (UTC +04:00)

The remaining stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons is being relinquished, the Pentagon said.

The move comes after months of delay that Syrian authorities blamed on security concerns, following Syria's promise last year to hand over or destroy its entire chemical weapons arsenal, Al Arabiya reported.

But the regime still possesses a significant amount of its declared chemical stocks and has not yet destroyed a dozen production and storage facilities.

"It is starting to be moved as we speak," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters, in comments cited by Reuters news agency,

The Pentagon statement was followed by an announcement that Syria had destroyed its entire declared stockpile of isopropanol, a precursor for producing sarin nerve gas.

"Now 7.2 percent of Syria's chemical weapons material remains in country and awaits swift removal for onward destruction. The Joint Mission urges the Syrian authorities to undertake this task as soon as possible," the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had taken steps to prepare some of its remaining chemicals for transport.

Syria has been removing chemical weapons under a deal reached last year that averted Western military strikes threatened after a sarin gas attack on rebel-held suburbs around the Syrian capital in August.

But Syria did not declare chlorine as part of its stockpile, which has recently been suspected as a weapon used by the Assad regime in attacks on civilians.

Chlorine is thousands of times less lethal than sarin but is illegal under a chemical weapons convention that Syria signed and its use would breach the terms of the deal with Washington and Moscow.