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Uncertainty Persists on Key Syria Chemical Deadline

A Syrian opposition fighter fires a machine gun at government forces on Monday in the city of Aleppo. It is still uncertain if shipping delays will force international authorities to push back a June deadline for eliminating the Syrian government's chemical-weapons stockpile. A Syrian opposition fighter fires a machine gun at government forces on Monday in the city of Aleppo. It is still uncertain if shipping delays will force international authorities to push back a June deadline for eliminating the Syrian government's chemical-weapons stockpile. (Zein al-Rifai/AFP/Getty Images)

It is unclear if international authorities will have to abandon a June goal for destroying the Syrian regime's chemical arsenal, the New York Times reports.

A new extended timeline reportedly gives Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime until April 27 to finish moving its chemical-warfare stocks to a coastal port for elimination outside the violence-plagued country. The new schedule would represent a delay of nearly three months from a Feb. 6 cutoff date, established last year, for the government in Damascus to finish placing materials on Danish and Norwegian transport ships docked at Latakia.

Officials still have not indicated whether the new schedule would require the U.N. Security Council to rethink its mandate for the chemical stockpile's full elimination by the middle of this year, the Times reported on Wednesday.

Assad's government agreed to relinquish the arsenal weeks after an August nerve-gas attack for which it never accepted blame. Syrian officials have cited security problems to explain delays in getting the materials to Latakia from points across the divided country.

Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said "it looks like things are being sorted out and that we are being given grounds for believing there will be regular movement now" of the Syrian stocks. The international watchdog agency said Assad's government had handed over an initial cache of mustard blister agent at Latakia on Wednesday.

Still, envoys at the United Nations said the disarmament project's pace may continue to produce concerns on the Security Council, despite Wednesday's development.

"We are not in the realm of noncompliance yet, but we are getting increasingly restless," said one envoy tied to the 15-nation body.

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