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Syria Faces New Questions on Chemical-Arms Records

A banner seen in the Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday shows President Bashar Assad alongside the Arabic-language slogan, "We build it together." Assad's government is reportedly under international pressure to explain discrepancies between its declared chemical-warfare assets and separate findings. A banner seen in the Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday shows President Bashar Assad alongside the Arabic-language slogan, "We build it together." Assad's government is reportedly under international pressure to explain discrepancies between its declared chemical-warfare assets and separate findings. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

Envoys said Syria's regime is facing international pressure to explain findings apparently at odds with its declared chemical-arms inventory, Reuters reports.

The conflicting information reportedly came up during a confidential Wednesday update to the U.N. Security Council by Sigrid Kaag, head of an effort to oversee the elimination of President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal. Assad's government agreed to eliminate the materials last year, though it never accepted responsibility for an August nerve-gas strike that prompted military threats from abroad.

A Western participant in Wednesday's meeting described the apparent chemical-inventory "discrepancies" as more than standard inconsistencies, and said regime declarations did not account for the full stockpile. Data obtained by Washington and other governments suggests Damascus may be concealing materials, the Associated Press reported.

Speaking after the closed-door discussion, Kaag told journalists that specialists addressed lingering concerns during two visits to Syria. She said they would give a June 17 briefing to the governing board of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Assad's government has given other nations custody of all but 7.2 percent of its reported chemical stockpile. Kaag reaffirmed that completing the destruction this month is now impossible. The final material remains locked in place by fighting near Damascus.

Kaag said moving the cache to a coastal pick-up point "is very, very critical," and she would travel to the Syrian capital within days to press for its rapid transfer.

Separately, she said investigators last week wrapped up a trip to Syria to examine allegations of chlorine-gas strikes in the country. It was uncertain if they reached the scene of any reported strike, according to AP.

"They will continue their work from [The Hague, Netherlands,] and collect as much information and evidence as possible," she said.

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