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Western Intel: Syria Can Still Field Chemical Weapons

A man passes a burning building on Friday, after a reported government airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo. British, French and U.S. intelligence reportedly points to a strong possibility that President Bashar Assad's regime remains capable of deploying chemical weapons. A man passes a burning building on Friday, after a reported government airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo. British, French and U.S. intelligence reportedly points to a strong possibility that President Bashar Assad's regime remains capable of deploying chemical weapons. (Khaled Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Envoys said Western intelligence points to a strong likelihood that Syria's regime remains capable of fielding chemical arms, Reuters reports.

Findings by France, the United Kingdom and the United States signal a deepening Western belief that Damascus has not fully abided by its commitment on eliminating its chemical arsenal, the news agency reported on Friday. President Bashar Assad's government pledged to surrender all of its chemical arms amid foreign military threats over an August sarin nerve-agent strike on land controlled by civil-war opponents.

One Western insider referenced a number of concerns, including the disappearance of a significant quantity of sarin ingredients, as well as the Syrian government's unconfirmed assertions that it eliminated a majority of its mustard blister agent prior to the arrival of an inspection team formed by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The international team said 7.5 percent of the regime's declared warfare stocks were still in the violence-torn country on Sunday, a previously established objective date for their full removal, the New York Times reported.

A high-level Western envoy added that London, Paris and Washington had months earlier supplied OPCW officials with indications of possible clandestine chemical-arms sites controlled by Syria's government, according to Reuters.

Russia, an ally of Assad, provided no response after receiving the findings, the source said. However, the Russian foreign ministry said groups accusing Damascus of recent chemical-arms use are seeking "a pretext for an armed intervention," Interfax reported on Friday.

Sigrid Kaag, the international disarmament operation's special coordinator, said looking into the alleged chlorine attacks does not fall within her mission's purview, according to a U.N. statement. Still, Western powers are expected to seek the U.N.-OPCW effort's continuation after Syria sends out its final declared chemical stocks, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the 41-nation OPCW governing board plans on Tuesday to address a dispute over plans for destroying Syria's 12 declared chemical-arms facilities, the Times reported.

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