Syria plans by Dec. 31 to expedite the transport of 20 tons of mustard blister agent to a port city for removal and destruction, Reuters reports.
Word of the shipment, which would include other warfare chemicals considered among the country's "most critical," came days after international officials said they could miss an end-of-year deadline for removing more of the most lethal materials held by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The leader admitted maintaining a chemical arsenal and agreed to its destruction in September, after a nerve-gas attack weeks earlier raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention against his regime.
Assad's forces earlier this month seized a strategic highway expected to prove crucial in delivering his chemical stocks to the coastal city of Latakia. Upon reaching the port, the materials are to be loaded onto foreign vessels and taken away for destruction at sea.
Still, protection of the chemical shipments has remained a pressing worry for disarmament personnel. Last week, officials at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons blamed security concerns and other logistical hurdles for possible delays in transport.
Moscow "airlifted 75 vehicles, including 50 Kamaz trucks and 25 Ural armored vehicles to the airport in Latakia on Dec. 18-20," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a Monday meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.