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U.S. House Demands Data on Any Hidden Syrian Chemical Arms

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

Smoke rises from a reported April government strike in Aleppo, Syria. Legislation passed on Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives would require intelligence officials to supply Congress with details on any chemical-warfare materials Syria's government may be trying to conceal. Smoke rises from a reported April government strike in Aleppo, Syria. Legislation passed on Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives would require intelligence officials to supply Congress with details on any chemical-warfare materials Syria's government may be trying to conceal. (Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. House of Representatives is demanding a rundown of any chemical-warfare materials that Syria's government may be trying to hide.

An intelligence authorization bill passed by the chamber on Friday would compel the Obama administration to send Congress an assessment of any "undeclared chemical-weapons stockpile, munitions and facilities" held by Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. The national intelligence director's report -- required within 30 days of the legislation's enactment -- must also address the origin of any hidden agents, potential "gaps" in U.S. knowledge about the Syrian stockpile, and related "denial and deception" tactics by Damascus.

Assad's regime has given other governments custody of all but roughly 7 percent of a 1,300-metric-ton chemical arsenal it acknowledged possessing last year. However, U.S. and other Western intelligence reportedly suggests that the regime remains capable of deploying chemical weapons, including materials it may have concealed from international inspectors.

Damascus has never admitted to tapping warfare chemicals in its 3-year-old war with opposition forces. The government pledged to relinquish its chemical stockpile, though, after sarin nerve agent last year killed hundreds of people in a rebel-controlled neighborhood and raised the prospect of an international military response.

The House-passed authorization bill calls for a "comprehensive assessment of chemical weapon stockpiles in Syria," as well as "a listing of key personnel associated with the Syrian chemical weapons program."

The legislation would require updated reports to be issued every 90 days over an 18-month period.

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