U.N. Official Urges Syria to Resume Stalled Chemical Arms Transfers

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Syria can still meet a June deadline for getting rid of its chemical weapons, but to do so must resume stalled weapons transfers now, an international coordinator told the U.N. Security Council Thursday.

Syria has suspended the transfers for what it says are security reasons, but on Sunday said it planned to resume them in the "coming days."

Sigrid Kaag, the coordinator of the international operation to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, warned the council any further delay would make it "increasingly challenging" to stick to the June 30 deadline, according to diplomats.

"Assuming that operations restart immediately, operations could be achieved on time," the diplomats quoted her as saying.

"I have repeated to Syrian authorities the need for a swift resumption of the removal operation. Operations have to restart immediately," she said.

Damascus agreed to give up its chemical weapons in September under a deal to ward off the threat of U.S. air strikes.

The agreement was reached after deadly chemical attacks outside Damascus last August that the West blamed on the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Kaag said there were 72 containers full of chemical weapons ready to be transferred to the main Syrian port of Latakia for shipment out of the country.

Their removal from Syria would account for 90 percent of the country's stockpile, she said.

So far nearly 54 percent of the Syrian chemical arsenal has been disposed of.

Diplomats said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and her French counterpart Gerard Araud insisted that Damascus accelerate the removal of the remaining weapons.

"Security should not be excuse for delay. It should be motive for speeding up removal," Power was quoted as saying.

Russia, however, said Syria had already given up more than half its arsenal and that the Syrian forces protecting the convoys moving the weapons had been the target of attack north of Latakia.

Syria, which has already missed a number of key deadlines, is in the midst of a three-year-old civil war.

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