(Adds details on chlorine attack investigation)
By Anthony Deutsch
AMSTERDAM May 22 Syria has made no progress in
relinquishing a last batch of chemical weapons it says is
inaccessible due to fighting, making it increasingly likely it
will miss a final deadline to destroy its toxic stockpile,
Britain said on Thursday.
The British deputy representative to the Organisation for
the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told delegates in The
Hague that packaging material had arrived for the 100 metric
tonnes of toxic chemicals.
"But there is still no sign of any movement of chemicals,
nor any indications of a time scale for a move," said the
statement, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, embroiled in civil war
with rebels fighting to oust him, agreed last year to hand over
the country's entire chemical weapons stockpile after hundreds
of people were killed in a sarin gas attack near Damascus.
The agreement with Russia and the United States averted
Western military strikes threatened in response to the worst
chemical weapons atrocity in decades, which has been blamed by
Washington on Assad's government.
His government, which denies the allegation and blames the
rebels, still has roughly 7 percent of 1,300 tonnes it declared
to the OPCW, enough highly toxic material to carry out a
It has missed several deadlines, most recently its own
promise to hand over the remaining chemicals by April 27. It has
also failed to destroy a dozen facilities that were part of the
chemical weapons programme.
Under the deal, Syria's entire stockpile is supposed to have
been destroyed by mid 2014, but "it is growing ever clearer that
the 30 June deadline will not be met", the British statement
OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu said later the organisation, which
won the Nobel Peace prize last year, was preparing for on-site
investigations in Syria into allegations of chlorine gas attacks
in recent months.
The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in
October as part of the U.S.-Russian agreement, does not ban
chlorine, but does ban its use as a weapon. Damascus denies
allegations of military use of the chemical, which has been
reportedly dropped from helicopters in "barrel bombs".
France has alleged that Syria has concealed chemical weapons
and also may have carried out attacks with chlorine 14 times in
Uzumcu said the Syrian authorities had agreed to provide
security for inspections of sites within government controlled
areas, but that it would be a "particularly challenging
undertaking" gaining access to territory outside its control.
OPCW inspectors investigating earlier allegations of
chemical weapon use in Syria were fired at by snipers, and
shells and rockets landed near their hotels.
"The alleged use of chlorine in Syria is of grave concern to
the OPCW and the international community," Uzumcu said. "All
efforts should be made, by all parties to the conflict, to
enable safe access for our team enabling it to conduct its
(Additional reporting by Dominic Evans in Beirut and Louis
Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Mark Heinrich and