UK's Cameron to Syria: Stop stalling on chemical weapons

LONDON Wed Feb 5, 2014 9:38am EST

LONDON Feb 5 (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday he was worried that Syria's efforts to destroy and hand over its chemical weapons arsenal were behind schedule, saying London planned to pressure Damascus to get the programme back on track.

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 and jeopardising a final June 30 deadline.

Cameron, who last August lost a parliamentary vote to authorise British participation in possible air strikes on Syria, was responding to a question from a senior lawmaker.

Cameron said he shared growing anxiety among British parliamentarians that the Syrian programme had fallen "so badly behind".

"There do seem to be now indications that the programme is slowing and that not all the information necessary is forthcoming," Cameron told parliament.

"Britain will continue to put pressure on all parties to make sure the chemicals weapons are produced and destroyed."

A diplomatic source said Britain would raise its concerns at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday which will hear an update on the Syrian programme.

Cameron raised his concerns about Syria in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday night.

Alistair Burt, a lawmaker in Cameron's Conservative party and until October last year a junior minister responsible for Syrian policy, said stalling by Damascus suggested the chemical deal had been a ploy to avert military action and buy time.

"No surprise that Syrian regime in strong position - chemical deal suited them, and allowed killing to go on," he wrote on the Twitter social media website. (Reporting by Andrew Osborn and William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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