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British Insiders Accuse Assad of Withholding Chemical-Arms Materials

A Syrian emergency worker passes a burning building after a reported barrel-bomb attack in Aleppo last week. British officials on Thursday said President Bashar Assad's government has not declared its full stockpile of chemical-arms materials. A Syrian emergency worker passes a burning building after a reported barrel-bomb attack in Aleppo last week. British officials on Thursday said President Bashar Assad's government has not declared its full stockpile of chemical-arms materials. (Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

British government insiders said Syria's regime is concealing chemical-weapon assets from disarmament personnel, the London Guardian reports.

The withheld items include the type of rockets that potentially could have been used to deliver munitions in a large-scale nerve-gas attack on rebel territory last summer, the British personnel said on Thursday. Syrian President Bashar Assad's government has shipped out or destroyed most of the chemical-arms assets it revealed last year, under a destruction plan it adopted after the August sarin strike prompted threats of a foreign military response.

"If it handed over those rockets it would be tantamount to admitting they did it," said one of the unnamed British sources, referring to the Syrian regime.

"We believe Syria has declared the vast bulk of its chemical weapon stockpile, but not everything," the insider added. "This is based on intelligence over a very long period, where things have gone to Syria over a long period and haven't been accounted for."

A British envoy added: "We do not expect that Syria will be found in compliance [with its disarmament commitment] when the last shipment leaves the country," the London Telegraph reported.

The world's chemical-arms watchdog agency is expected to maintain pressure on Assad's government over possible unrevealed materials once Damascus finishes relinquishing its reported stocks, the Guardian reported.

The final declared warfare materials are in transit to Latakia -- where they are to be shipped out of the country for destruction -- or undergoing preparation at a single location for delivery to the Syrian seaport. Assad's regime may meet a Sunday goal for placing the assets in international custody, but otherwise appears set to reach the milestone before May, government sources said.

Meanwhile, China on Friday suggested its largest weapons manufacturer breached no "relevant international conventions" in dealings with Assad, Reuters reported. Video footage links the firm Norinco to materials from possible recent toxic gas attacks in Syria's civil war.

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