UN concerned Assad hid chemical weapons

World News -

The UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria handed over all the chemical weapons it declared, but is investigating claims that Assad's forces are still using them.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

"There are concerns over possible discrepancies in volume and other such matters. I am heading back to Damascus in the coming period and we will also pursue that." Sigrid Kaag, head of OPCW-UN joint mission

Kaag expressed concerns Sept. 4 that the Syrian government had not declared all its chemical weapons. She said there was still time to determine that before the OPCW-UN mission ends Sept. 30. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said she was worried chemical weapons could reach extremists.

The Hague-based OPCW announced Sept. 10 it found "with a high degree of confidence that chlorine, either pure or in mixture, is the toxic chemical in question" in dozens of attacks in Syria in April-August 2014. It did not assign blame, but the U.S. and U.K. blamed Assad's military for the attacks.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Aug. 18 that U.S. Ship MV Cape Ray finished neutralizing "the most dangerous chemicals" in Syria's declared stockpile. On Aug. 19, OPCW confirmed 600 metric tons of Category 1 chemicals were destroyed. The destruction was completed weeks ahead of schedule.

The Cape Ray has been fitted with at least $10 million worth of gear to carry about 560 metric tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons precursors out to sea for processing. Hot water is the main agent used to neutralize the chemicals into a less poisonous mixture. Copyright 2014 Reuters

The Cape Ray has been fitted with at least $10 million worth of gear to carry about 560 metric tons of Syria's most dangerous chemical weapons precursors out to sea for processing. Hot water is the main agent used to neutralize the chemicals into a less poisonous mixture.

"All declared chemical weapons have left Syria." Ahmet Uzumcu, director general OPCW

Uzumcu announced that Syria had successfully handed over its declared chemical weapons at a press conference June 23. He said an OPCW team would visit Damascus to confirm the information, and another team will investigate claims that there are undeclared weapons.

The OPCW is investigating claims that Syrian forces have used chlorine gas in attacks since April, 2014. France said on June 5 that 14 chlorine samples it collected may be inconclusive and need to be checked against other information. Investigators will study communications between Syrian officials, pieces of debris from possible launch sites, and medical records.

A UN report released in Sept. 2013 said there was "clear and convincing evidence" that rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in the Aug. 21, 2013, attack near Damascus, which killed hundreds. Inspectors were ordered to report on whether weapons were used, not on who used them.

On Aug. 26 the UN inspection team was able to reach victims of the apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus and take samples, despite coming under fire from "unidentified snipers." One vehicle was incapacitated by the fire, forcing some inspectors to turn back, but there were no injuries reported.

A UN report published Dec. 12 said that in addition to the Aug. 21 sarin attack in Damascus, sarin was also likely used in attacks in Khan al Assal, Jobar, Saraqueb and Ashrafiah Sahnaya between March and August. The report did not place blame on either the government or opposition forces.

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