Syria misses chemical weapons handover deadline
Amsterdam: Syria on Wednesday missed a deadline to hand over all the toxic materials it declared to the world`s chemical weapons watchdog, putting the programme several weeks behind schedule and jeopardizing a final June 30 deadline.
At the same time, opposition activists say the Syrian air force is attacking the country`s biggest city, Aleppo, with barrel bombs, forcing many to flee. Turkey was turning away some of those refugees because camps were now full.
Under a deal reached in October between Russia and the United States, which helped avert a U.S.-led missile strike against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria agreed to give up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons by February 5.
Russia said on Tuesday its ally Damascus would ship more chemicals soon, but Western diplomats said they saw no indications that further shipments were pending.
Syria has said it would submit a handover timetable to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, but gave no indication of when that would happen.
There have been no shipments since January 27 and the latest deadline was missed, said OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan. "It`s a status quo until we get this plan."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States was "absolutely not" concerned that the chemical weapons agreement was falling apart, but added that "Syria must abide by its commitments."
"I would note that Russia has said it expects the Assad regime to deliver a substantial portion of its chemical weapons stockpile in the relatively near future. And we obviously believe that`s very important," Carney said.
Carney added that Russia "obviously has a great deal at stake" in the Syrian government fulfilling its responsibilities under the U.S.-Russian agreement.
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said on Wednesday Syria was trying to meet its obligations.
"Syria is proceeding with all determination, strength and credibility to fully implement the agreements with the U.N.-OPCW," the Syrian national news agency SANA quoted him as saying.
In an apparent reference to clearing a road through disputed territory to the northern port of Latakia for shipment abroad, Meqdad said "there can be no leniency at all when it comes to transporting chemical weapons out of Syria."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was worried that the chemical weapons handover was behind schedule, and British diplomats said they planned to raise the matter at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.
"Britain will continue to put pressure on all parties to make sure the chemical weapons are produced and destroyed," Cameron told parliament in London.
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