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U.N. Security Council Presses Syria on Chemical Removal

Syrian opposition fighters carry a rocket launcher during clashes with government forces last week in the city of Aleppo. The U.N. Security Council on Thursday pressed Syria's government to accelerate its transfer of warfare chemicals to other nations. Syrian opposition fighters carry a rocket launcher during clashes with government forces last week in the city of Aleppo. The U.N. Security Council on Thursday pressed Syria's government to accelerate its transfer of warfare chemicals to other nations. (Salah al-Ashkar/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday urged Syria's government to accelerate its handover of lethal warfare chemicals, the Associated Press reports.

The 15-nation body said Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime should "expedite actions to meet its obligation to transport in a systematic and sufficiently accelerated manner all relevant chemicals" to Latakia, a Mediterranean port where they are to be loaded onto transport vessels and taken abroad for neutralization.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have judged the government in Damascus to possess "sufficient material and equipment" to rapidly move its chemical-warfare stocks across Syria's strife-ridden territory, the Security Council noted.

Assad's regime has requested electronics and bomb-tracking gear for the task. Such equipment must come directly from other countries, because its potential utility in the country's civil war precludes its provision by international authorizes, said Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the international operation to eliminate the Syrian government's chemical arsenal.

Still, Kaag played down the possibility that Damascus is intentionally moving slowly to relinquish its chemical stockpile.

"We've seen so far constructive cooperation," the official said to journalists.

Washington's envoy to the United Nations voiced greater skepticism about the Syrian government's intentions.

"We know the regime has the ability to move these weapons and materials because they have moved them multiple times over the course of this conflict. It is time for the Assad government to stop its foot-dragging, establish a transportation plan, and stick to it," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters.

Power said removal delays are "encouraging heightened risks that these weapons will be used again, by regime elements, or will fall into the hands of terrorists."

Kaag added that her team wants to see chemical-arms materials taken out of Syria along a predetermined timeline in "volume-based predictable movements," Reuters reported. To date, Assad's regime has placed in foreign custody two loads of warfare chemicals amounting to less than five percent of its total arsenal.

Kaag added, though, that the government has progressed in eliminating certain chemical-arms materials within Syria's borders. She did not elaborate on her comment in the wire service report.

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