UK Says Syria Still Has Chemicals for 'Many Nerve Gas Attacks'

Syria still has chemicals to make enough nerve agent to replicate last August's deadly attack outside Damascus "many times over", Britain warned the world's chemical watchdog on Thursday.

Britain's deputy delegate to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is charged with destroying President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons, accused Syria of delaying the destruction of its chemical weapons.

Damascus has so far handed over more than 92 percent of its arsenal.

"Syria continues to possess approximately 100 metric tonnes of material" at one site, the delegate told a meeting of the OPCW's Executive Council, according to a copy of the briefing seen by Agence France Presse.

"The site contains all the precursors needed to produce nerve agent and sufficient material to replicate, many times over, the incident in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21 last year," the delegate said.

The sarin nerve gas attack in rebel-held Ghouta killed around 1,400 people. Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal after the U.S. threatened airstrikes against Assad in response.

Under the terms of the U.N.-backed and U.S.-Russia brokered deal, Syria's government has agreed to give up its entire stock of deadly chemicals by April 27, after missing several key deadlines.

Danish and Norwegian ships are to take the chemicals to a U.S. ship for destruction at sea, along with sites in Finland, the U.S. and Britain, by June 30.

Britain on Thursday accused Syria of "holding up the next steps of transportation, transhipment, unloading and ultimately destruction."

Syria told the OPCW that it has been unable to complete the handover of its chemicals because of ongoing fighting in the war-wracked country.

The OPCW last week sent a team to Syria to investigate the recent alleged use of chlorine gas in the conflict.

The new probe comes after France and the United States alleged that Assad's forces may have unleashed industrial chemicals on a rebel-held village in central Hama province this month.

Syria did not have to declare its stockpile of chlorine -- a weak toxic agent -- as part of the disarmament deal as it is widely used for commercial and domestic purposes.

Source: Agence France Presse

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