Syria Lags in Surrendering Deadliest Chemical Arms

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Syrian rebel fighters fire a machine gun during a Tuesday clash with government forces in Aleppo. Syria's regime has given up 29.5 percent of its deadliest warfare substances and a significantly larger portion of lower-grade materials, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Wednesday.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
March 19, 2014, 10:45 a.m.

Syr­ia’s re­gime re­cently handed over more of its chem­ic­al arms, but it has been slow to give up its dead­li­est sub­stances, newly re­leased fig­ures in­dic­ate.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment on Fri­day and Monday placed sep­ar­ate batches of war­fare chem­ic­als on for­eign freight­ers docked at the port of Latakia, ac­cord­ing to fresh data cir­cu­lated by the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons. The watch­dog agency is over­see­ing a glob­al ef­fort to re­move and des­troy the full Syr­i­an ar­sen­al by the end of June.

The re­gime’s ninth and tenth chem­ic­al ship­ments were partly com­posed of “Pri­or­ity 1” agents, which in­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies have said rep­res­ent the most dan­ger­ous com­pon­ent of As­sad’s chem­ic­al stock­pile.

Dam­as­cus has giv­en up a far great­er pro­por­tion of its ma­ter­i­als deemed less dan­ger­ous, though. It has shipped out more than four-fifths of its lower-grade chem­ic­al war­fare stocks, but only 29.5 per­cent of the Pri­or­ity 1 stocks, ac­cord­ing to the OP­CW state­ment.

In total, As­sad’s gov­ern­ment has re­lin­quished “more than 45 per­cent” of its de­clared stock­pile, the in­ter­na­tion­al watch­dog agency said in an e-mail. The gov­ern­ment agreed to hand over its chem­ic­al weapons last Septem­ber, weeks after a sar­in nerve agent re­lease al­legedly killed more than 1,400 people in an op­pos­i­tion-held sub­urb of the Syr­i­an cap­it­al.

Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment cur­rently is ex­pec­ted to fin­ish ship­ping out its chem­ic­al arms by the middle of April. The 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil ori­gin­ally de­man­ded that Dam­as­cus fin­ish hand­ing over its Pri­or­ity 1 stocks by the end of last year, and its re­main­ing ma­ter­i­als by early Feb­ru­ary.

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