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Nations Debate Extended Timeline for Syrian Chemical Handover

Syrian government fighters hold their nation's flag for a photo in a village north of Damascus on Tuesday. The world's chemical-arms watchdog on Tuesday said an international disarmament effort will be very active this month as work continues to remove all such Syrian materials by the end of June. Syrian government fighters hold their nation's flag for a photo in a village north of Damascus on Tuesday. The world's chemical-arms watchdog on Tuesday said an international disarmament effort will be very active this month as work continues to remove all such Syrian materials by the end of June. (AFP/Getty Images)

A key monitoring agency began debating Syria's revised plan to turn over warfare chemicals in a closely watched disarmament effort, Reuters reports.

The Syrian government's latest proposal for removing the substances was the focus of a Tuesday discussion at the multinational governing body of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. The operation's top international overseer said the government in Damascus had endorsed a 60-day timeline to complete its remaining chemical shipments, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

"We anticipate a lot of action in the month of March," said Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the U.N.-OPCW operation. She added that a goal to destroy the entire stockpile by June 30 is still within reach.

Western envoys, though, contend that the regime must finish the transfers this month in order to allow other countries enough time to finish neutralizing the materials by the end-of-June objective date, according to Reuters. International authorities last year called for the handover to wrap up by early February, and President Bashar Assad's regime has blamed delays on rebel threats to materials being transported across Syria's embattled territory to a coastal pick-up point.

The chemical-disarmament agency on Tuesday said Assad's government had placed two additional arms caches in international custody since last week. With the latest transfers, the regime has surrendered roughly one-third of its entire declared stockpile and just over a fifth of its deadliest substances, the organization said in a statement.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said "it will be important to maintain this newly created momentum."

"For its part, the Syrian government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the removal operations in a timely manner," he added in comments to the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council.

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