UPDATE 1-Russia says June deadline to destroy Syrian toxins still viable - Interfax

Fri Jan 31, 2014 6:08am EST

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MOSCOW Jan 31 (Reuters) - A June 30 deadline for the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal remains "completely realistic" despite delays in shipping out the weapons, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian diplomat as saying on Friday.

Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Foreign Ministry's security and disarmament department, blamed the delays on security problems on the road to the port of Latakia and insufficient technical support from the international community, Interfax reported.

The international operation to dispose of Syria's chemical stockpile is six to eight weeks behind schedule and next week's deadline for sending all toxic agents abroad for destruction will be missed, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Ulyanov made clear that Moscow rejects U.S. accusations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government is dragging its feet on giving up its chemical arms under a deal agreed by Russia and the United States in September.

The main reason for the delay "is linked to the unfavourable security situation on the route for transporting chemical weapons components... to Latakia," the port from which they are being removed from Syria, Ulyanov was quoted as saying, adding there had been an attack on a convoy this week.

"Also, the Syrians are complaining about insufficient material and technical support from the international community," he said.

However, he said that "as before, the final deadline for completing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons - June 30 of this year - seems completely realistic," Interfax reported. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Mark Trevelyan)

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