| BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS
BEIRUT/UNITED NATIONS Feb 26 Syria has agreed a
new timetable to remove its chemical weapons by late April after
failing to meet a deadline to ship out the arsenal earlier this
month, diplomats said on Wednesday.
Under a U.S.-Russian deal reached after a chemical weapons
attack killed hundreds of people around Damascus last year,
President Bashar al-Assad's government should have handed over
1,300 tonnes of toxic chemicals by Feb. 5 for destruction
But only three cargoes have been shipped out of the country
so far, barely 10 percent of the total stockpile declared to the
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
overseeing the process along with the United Nations.
Amid growing international frustration at the slow pace of
progress, Syria last week submitted a new 100-day plan to remove
the remaining chemicals, which would have set a target of late
May or early June for completion.
But the OPCW said the work could be done quicker, despite
fighting between Assad's forces and rebels seeking his
Diplomats said the latest timetable would see Syria
committing to transport most of the remaining chemicals to its
Mediterranean port of Latakia by April 13, from where they would
be shipped out for destruction.
Consignments from two sites where security was precarious
would be delivered to Latakia by April 27, they said.
The diplomats also said two more shipments were expected to
leave Latakia port on international vessels by the weekend.
"There's likely to be some movements in the next few days,"
a senior Western envoy said. "This is something on which the
Russians are continuing to keep up the pressure on the regime."
"This process is going forward, it hasn't been completely
No OPCW spokesman declined to comment.
Assad agreed to destroy his chemical weapons following
global outrage over a sarin gas attack in August last year.
The world's deadliest chemical attack in 25 years, it drew
a U.S. threat of military strikes which was dropped after Assad
- who blamed rebels for the attack - pledged to give up chemical
The latest timetable appears to be a compromise between
Damascus and Western powers who said last week that the shipment
of the chemicals could be completed by the end of March.
The United States has sent the MV Cape Ray, a ship outfitted
with special equipment to neutralize the worst of Syria's
chemicals at sea, and says it will need 90 days to complete the
(Editing by Angus MacSwan)