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Syria's Last Chemical Cache Locked in Place by Fighting

A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs on Thursday. Heavy fighting has stalled efforts to secure Syria's remaining stocks of warfare chemicals, located outside Damascus, a key U.N. official said. A bullet-riddled parking sign stands amid debris in a deserted street leading into the old city of Homs on Thursday. Heavy fighting has stalled efforts to secure Syria's remaining stocks of warfare chemicals, located outside Damascus, a key U.N. official said. (Youssef Karwashan/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's final declared batch of warfare chemical cannot be extracted for destruction at this point because of heavy fighting, a U.N. official has confirmed.

"There is a lot of fighting taking place," Sigrid Kaag, the diplomat overseeing Syria's chemical disarmament, was quoted as saying on Thursday by the New York Times. "It's not a situation where you want a chemical weapons convoy passing through."

At a briefing with reporters in New York, Kaag provided perhaps the most specific information to date about the final eight percent of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile that have yet to be removed from the country. Locked in place at an airfield east of Damascus are 100 tons of materials, packed into 16 containers, that could be used to make the deadly nerve agent sarin, the Associated Press reports.

Once officials can safely access the site, Kaag said it would take "less than a working week" to pack the materials and ship them to the port of Latakia, from which they could be taken for destruction to a U.S.-provided cargo ship modified for the mission.

While the materials were considered "safe and secure" at the regime-controlled airfield on Thursday, the rebel group threatening the site are "the more extreme kind," the diplomat warned. "Global jihad has come to Syria."

Kaag indicated that military action by the Syrian government was planned to push back the rebels.

"From their perspective, it is something that needs to happen because it is an important route, and it's not far from Damascus," she was quoted as saying by the AP.

Syria so far has removed roughly 92 percent of its declared chemical stocks, following a pledge to disarm last year in the wake of a sarin gas attack in a Damascus. The regime made the commitment because Western powers had considered a military strike.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has sent inspectors to the country to investigate allegations that Syrian government forces recently used munitions filled with chlorine gas in the civil war.

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