| UNITED NATIONS, June 4
UNITED NATIONS, June 4 Inspectors overseeing the
destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal have asked
President Bashar al-Assad's government to clarify disparities in
its original declaration on its cache of toxic gas, U.N.
diplomats said on Wednesday.
The envoys were citing remarks by Sigrid Kaag, head of the
joint mission to Syria of the United Nations and the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who was
briefing the 15-nation U.N. Security Council.
"The (U.N.-OPCW) team has been in Damascus seeking
clarification on discrepancies in the original declaration," a
diplomat present at the closed-door meeting told Reuters on
condition of anonymity.
Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a
June 30 deadline for the destruction of all of Syria's declared
chemical weapons would not be met.
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said on his Twitter feed
that Kaag's mission "will need to continue its activities beyond
this date (June 30)." Another diplomat said Kaag had made clear
the destruction work would not be completed this month.
Assad, embroiled in the fourth year of a civil war with
rebels fighting to oust him, agreed last year to hand over the
country's entire chemical weapons stockpile and ensure its total
destruction by June 30, after hundreds of people were killed in
an August 2013 sarin nerve gas attack near Damascus.
The September agreement with Russia and the United States
averted U.S. military strikes in response to the worst chemical
weapons attack in decades, which Washington and its European
allies blamed on Assad.
His government, which denies the allegation and blames the
rebels for all chemical attacks in Syria, still has roughly 7
percent of 1,300 metric tonnes of chemical weapons it declared
to the OPCW, enough highly toxic material to carry out a
Assad's government has indicated it wants the U.N.-OPCW
mission shut down as soon as all chemicals are shipped out of
But Western officials want the mission to continue to
investigate numerous ambiguities in Syria's chemical weapons
declaration, which have become increasingly glaring in the
course of the mission's work.
The officials have cited U.S., French and British
intelligence that Assad's government had failed to disclose all
of its poison gas stocks in its original declaration, leaving it
with the capability to produce and deploy chemical arms.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)