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Key Syria Coordinator, White House Confer on Chem Removal Timeline

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

Syrian opposition fighters make their way through a village outside the city of Hama on Friday. International coordinator Sigrid Kaag met last week with White House officials to discuss timing for Syria's chemical disarmament. Syrian opposition fighters make their way through a village outside the city of Hama on Friday. International coordinator Sigrid Kaag met last week with White House officials to discuss timing for Syria's chemical disarmament. (Ali Nasser/AFP/Getty Images)

Destroying Syria's chemical weapons by a June deadline was the focus of a White House meeting with the disarmament effort's international overseer.

Deputy National Security Adviser Antony Blinken's Friday meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the chemical-removal operation's special coordinator, came more than a month after the Syrian government was scheduled to finish sending its chemical-warfare stocks to the port of Latakia for neutralization outside the country. Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has blamed delays on threats to warfare materials in transit across the violence-ridden nation.

Blinken's discussion with Kaag "focused on ensuring the Syrian government maintains regular, substantial and uninterrupted activities to remove its chemical weapons to enable destruction in accordance with the June 30 deadline," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

The international chemical-arms watchdog on Friday said the speed of the chemical deliveries was increasing, and noted that 29 percent of the government's declared arsenal had been removed from the country. A revised schedule reportedly gives Assad's regime until April 27 to wrap up the deliveries to Latakia.

Damascus should maintain "systematic, predictable and substantial movements" of warfare materials, according to a statement by the 41-nation governing body of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In Washington, though, the State Department said the Syrian government's faster chemical-arms movements might not save it from missing the mid-year completion objective.

"Recent shipments are encouraging signs that Syria is accelerating [chemical-arms] movements to Latakia, but the regime’s previous lack of action has put the June 30 deadline for elimination of Syria’s program at risk," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a Friday press briefing.

Assad's government agreed to surrender its chemical arsenal after an August nerve-gas attack on the edge of Damascus prompted threats of armed intervention in the Syrian civil war.

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