Syria can meet June 30 chemical weapons deadline: U.N. chief
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he was confident Syria would meet a June 30 deadline to eliminate its entire chemical weapons program under a US-Russian plan.
Syria has missed a February 5 deadline to hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons, prompting fears it could fail to fulfill on time the plan which helped avert a U.S.-led missile strike against President Bashar al-Assad's government.
"About these chemical weapons, I believe the process has been moving on rather smoothly even though there have been some delays," Ban told reporters after addressing a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in the Russian city of Sochi.
"Our target is June 30 this year. This may be a very tight target, but I believe that it can be done with the full support of the Syrian government," said Ban, who will attend the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Friday.
The agreement on the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons was reached after a sarin gas attack near Damascus last year killed hundreds of civilians.
Damascus blames delays in implementation of the plan on security problems and the threat of rebel attacks as the weapons are transported out of Syria.
The Syrian government has requested additional armor and communications equipment but the United States and the United Nations, which is jointly overseeing the destruction program with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has said Syria has sufficient equipment to carry out the plan.
Ban, who called for a truce in Syria during the Olympics, said he had received promises over the plan's fulfillment from Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem last week during talks in Geneva.
"He assured me that this chemical weapons destruction process will continue as scheduled," said Ban.
(Reporting by Timothy Heritage, Writing by Thomas Grove)