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Insider: Syrian Assault Seeks to Clear Route for Final Chemical Arms

Syrian government troops stand on a tank in the city of Homs earlier this month. President Bashar Assad's forces reportedly launched an assault to clear a path for removing the regime's final declared chemical-weapon materials. Syrian government troops stand on a tank in the city of Homs earlier this month. President Bashar Assad's forces reportedly launched an assault to clear a path for removing the regime's final declared chemical-weapon materials. (Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's regime initiated an armed offensive aimed at ripping open a removal route for its final declared warfare chemicals, Reuters reports.

Video systems are keeping a remote eye on the chemical cache -- 100 metric tons of materials -- now packaged for transport out of the devastated country, but international authorities currently cannot reach the single installation where it is held, a Middle East-based envoy told the news agency for a Thursday article.

The regime said its chemicals "cannot yet be moved from the storage site due to the security situation in the area," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a Thursday statement.

The report followed indications that President Bashar Assad's government was readying the materials earlier this week for shipment to Latakia, where foreign transport ships have picked up all but about 7 percent of the regime's chemical arsenal. Damascus agreed to relinquish the stockpile last year, amid threats of an international military response to an August nerve-gas attack in rebel territory.

On Thursday, the United Kingdom's deputy representative to the chemical-weapons watchdog said that "there is still no sign of any movement of [the remaining] chemicals, nor any indications of a time scale for a move."

"It is growing ever clearer that the June 30 deadline [for destroying the arsenal] will not be met," the British envoy added in remarks to the agency's 41-nation governing board.

Meanwhile, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü indicated that officials were still getting ready to conduct an "on-site" investigation of numerous chlorine-gas attacks alleged in Syria. He separately noted that expert briefings recently took place on the planned elimination of a dozen former Syrian chemical-arms factories.

The announcements came as anti-government political operatives issued what they described as footage from a Thursday chlorine release in Kfar Zeita, a focal point of alleged strikes with the toxic industrial chemical, Reuters reported.

NTI Analysis

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