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Disarmament Officials Target Syria's Chemical-Production Sites

People run for cover following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the city of Aleppo last week. International officials reportedly are formulating a plan to destroy the Syrian government's chemical-arms production sites. People run for cover following a reported air strike by Syrian government forces in the city of Aleppo last week. International officials reportedly are formulating a plan to destroy the Syrian government's chemical-arms production sites. (Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

A key watchdog agency may help resolve a standoff on eliminating chemical-arms production sites controlled by Syria's government, ITAR-Tass reports.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected this week to unveil plans negotiated with Damascus to deal with a dozen chemical-weapons manufacturing facilities in the violence-plagued country, according to Saturday comments by Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department.

"OPCW experts have been instructed to find, together with the Syrians, solutions that would make it possible to solve the task,” Ulyanov said.

The United States previously rejected proposals by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime to neutralize the 12 sites through measures short of full demolition.

Ulyanov added that Syrian rebel forces are preventing access to two chemical-arms storage locations, raising the potential for further delays in an international disarmament operation. The government is transferring warfare chemicals to the port city of Latakia, where foreign freighters are picking them up for destruction at sea and abroad.

"Syrian authorities have to deal with enormous difficulties ... because rebels have not given up attempts to seize chemical weapons," he said.

Washington, though, on Monday reaffirmed suggestions that Assad is deliberately delaying efforts to eliminate of its chemical-warfare assets, Reuters reported.

"We in the United States are convinced that if Syria wanted to they could move faster," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in The Hague, Netherlands.

On Friday, a key international official said a June 30 goal date for eliminating the stockpile was still feasible, Reuters said in a separate report.

"We don't exclude a further speeding up of the current pace," said Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of a U.N.-OPCW mission overseeing the disarmament effort. Assad's government is currently slated to finish relinquishing its chemical stocks in late April.

The Russian-backed Syrian regime agreed to give up its chemical-arms stockpile and production capabilities last year, after a nerve-gas strike in an opposition-controlled residential area prompted threats of an international military response.

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