Syria Falls Short of Key Chemical-Removal Deadline

Civilians in the aftermath of a reported Feb. 1 airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo. President Bashar Assad's government missed a Wednesday deadline for relinquishing its chemical-warfare stockpile.
Civilians in the aftermath of a reported Feb. 1 airstrike on the Syrian city of Aleppo. President Bashar Assad's government missed a Wednesday deadline for relinquishing its chemical-warfare stockpile. (Mohammed al-Khatieb/AFP/Getty Images)

Most Syrian-government chemical arms remained in regime custody on Wednesday, when other nations had hoped to be done removing them, Reuters reports.

President Bashar Assad's government has not surrendered any warfare chemicals since early last week, when it transferred its second load onto Danish and Norwegian cargo vessels, according to Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Damascus still held more than 95 percent of the chemical arsenal it agreed last year to eliminate, Reuters reported.

Luhan said the disarmament process would remain "status quo" until Syria sends a promised schedule for relinquishing the rest of the 1,300-metric-ton inventory. Assad's government has not suggested when it could provide the plan to the chemical watchdog agency headquartered in The Hague.

A Russian diplomat, though, on Tuesday said its Damascus ally would finish sending the rest of its arms abroad by March 1, according to the New York Times. Assad's forces must transport the materials across Syria's strife-ridden countryside to the port of Latakia, where they are to be picked up by foreign vessels and taken to sea or abroad for destruction.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Assad's government still intends to reach an end-of-June goal for the full elimination of its chemical stockpile at offshore sites, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The regime acknowledged possessing chemical weapons weeks after a sarin nerve-gas strike last summer allegedly left more than 1,400 dead on the Syrian capital's outskirts.

U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper on Tuesday said the disarmament plan "strengthened" Assad's footing in his country's civil war, Reuters reported. More than 100,000 people have died in the fighting, which is now in its third year.

Speaking to House intelligence committee lawmakers, Clapper said he anticipates "a perpetual state of a stalemate where ... neither the [Syrian] regime nor the opposition can prevail."

February 5, 2014
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Most Syrian-government chemical arms remained in regime custody on Wednesday, when other nations had hoped to be done removing them, Reuters reports.

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