UN reports almost half Syria chemicals packed for removal
Syria has packed 40 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal into containers to be taken outside the country and destroyed, and convoy security has been deployed to deal with violence around the port city of Latakia, the head of the mission overseeing the operation said today.
Syria's UN envoy warned that the government may be forced to delay its transports due to the security situation and might miss another deadline for moving the ingredients of its poison gas program out of the country.
Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told the UN Security Council the toxins had been loaded into 72 containers at three different sites, said council diplomats who attended the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Once those 72 containers are shipped out of war-torn Syria, some 90 percent of the country's declared chemical weapons stockpile will have been removed for destruction, Kaag told a closed-door council briefing via video link from Damascus.
The United Nations said that since March 20, no chemicals had been transported to Latakia, where they are to be shipped out of the country for destruction. So far almost 54 percent of Syria's declared chemicals have been removed.
Kaag told the Security Council that the Syrian authorities had assigned forces to provide security for the convoys to deal with the increased violence in the Latakia area, diplomats said.
Islamist insurgents launched an offensive around March 20 into Syria's Latakia region on the Mediterranean coast, taking both the border crossing with Turkey and the Armenian Christian village of Kasab on the Syrian side.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has sent army and militia reinforcements, backed by air power, to repulse the rebels, leading to heavy fighting across the strip of territory along the Turkish border. Turkey has fired back into Syria in retaliation for shells landing in its territory.
"Syrian authorities informed the joint mission that in view of the deteriorating security situation in Latakia province it would be temporarily postponing scheduled movements of chemical materials," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.
"The joint mission has impressed upon the Syrian authorities the need to resume movements as soon as possible in order to meet the timelines for the complete removal and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons program," he said.