Syria starts moving remaining chemical weapons, Pentagon says

WASHINGTON Wed May 21, 2014 10:41pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Syria is starting to relinquish the remaining stockpile of materials from its chemical weapons arsenal after months of delay it blamed on security concerns, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

"It is starting to be moved as we speak," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

The news followed an announcement by the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemicals that Syria had destroyed its entire declared stockpile of isopropanol, a precursor for producing sarin nerve gas.

"Now 7.2 percent of Syria's chemical weapons material remains in country and awaits swift removal for onward destruction. The Joint Mission urges the Syrian authorities to undertake this task as soon as possible," the U.N.-OPCW mission said in a statement.

Syria has promised to hand over or destroy its entire chemical weapons arsenal although it still possesses a significant amount of its declared chemical stocks and has not yet destroyed a dozen production and storage facilities.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had taken steps to prepare some of its remaining chemicals for transport.

Syria has been removing chemical weapons under a deal reached last year that averted Western military strikes threatened after a sarin gas attack on rebel-held suburbs around the Syrian capital in August.

Assad's Western foes suspect him of deliberately dragging out the process and say his forces are using chlorine bombs, including in an attack on a rebel-held village this week.

Damascus denies that forces loyal to Assad have used chlorine or other more poisonous gases and blames all chemical attacks on rebel forces fighting in the three-year-old civil war. It has also blamed the security situation for its failure to meet deadlines to ship out the chemical stocks.

Syria did not declare chlorine as part of its stockpile.

Chlorine is thousands of times less lethal than sarin but is illegal under a chemical weapons convention that Syria signed and its use would breach the terms of the deal with Washington and Moscow.

Britain, France and the United States say they have intelligence suggesting Syria failed to declare some of its chemical weapons materials.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by David Storey and Ken Wills)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (2)
cirrus7 wrote:
That Chlorine Gas is not instantly lethal like Sarin, but can certainly kill. It is a suffocating agent banned by signatories of the Geneva Protocol to use, inspired by the horrors of WWI.

However even though Syria finally signed it in 1968, using the gas against its own defenseless citizens is not even considered. What monster would do such a thing anyways – well now we know – Bashar Assad, already with a cell at The Hague being prepared for him, a madman who GASSEDE TO DEATH 426 kids, 1000 adults and also poisoned a few hero doctors, in an hour on August 21.

Much evidence exists, but violating the Agreement reached has no specified penalty, on the insistence of Vladimir Putin, provider of most of Assad’s weapons.

May 21, 2014 11:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
I would not bet on anything, that is reported by the Syrian govt, or their Russian and Iranian handlers…this whole thing from start to finish has been one massive cluster —-….everyone knows this..the people that should care, are the Syrian peoples…as im sure, as soon as they can, the Syrian govt will gas and kill, as many as they can all over again………

May 21, 2014 12:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.