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Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Syria finished handing over to Western powers Monday the 1,300 tons of chemical weapons it acknowledged possessing, completing a deal reached last fall under threat of U.S. airstrikes.

The most dangerous material will be transferred to an American ship, which will move into international waters and use specialized equipment to destroy the chemicals over the next two months. Other material will be disposed of at toxic waste sites in various countries.

Questions persist over whether Syrian President Bashar Assad is hiding undeclared poison gases or attacking rebels with chlorine – a toxic industrial gas that is not specifically classified as a chemical weapon.

But politicians and activists hailed Monday’s milestone as a victory for international diplomacy, and, at the least, a clear reduction in the amount of chemicals available for use in Syria’s bloody civil war.

The news came amid extremely high tension across the Middle East, as Israel carried out retaliatory strikes on Syria and a Syrian cabinet member warned that Sunni insurgents in Iraq have been funneling weapons to rebels in Syria.

The material handed over by Syria included mustard gas and precursors to the nerve gas sarin.

Syria agreed to surrender its arsenal when the U.S. threatened missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The attack is believed to have killed more than 1,000 people.

The deal was put together by the United States and Russia, which has been Assad’s most powerful international backer during the war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog agency overseeing Syria’s disarmament, confirmed that the final 100 tons of chemicals had been loaded onto a Danish ship in the Syrian port of Latakia.

The completion of the task came nearly two months past the April 27 deadline set by the United Nations. The OPCW said that was because of security concerns amid the fighting.

“The last thing you want, of course, is when you’re dealing with chemical weapons elimination, that chemical weapons material falls into the wrong hands,” Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint U.N.-OPCW mission in Syria, said at the project’s staging ground in Cyprus.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the OPCW, acknowledged that Syria could still be hiding some of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” Uzumcu said.

But he said that that was true of any country that his organization works with. And he added that Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by outside experts.

He described the Syrian government’s overall cooperation as “satisfactory.”

Kaag said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions” in Syria’s declaration that need to be made.

Others applauded the move.

“To its great credit, the OPCW, the United Nations, the United States, Russia and a diverse coalition of more than two dozen states stepped up to the unprecedented task of verifiably removing a country’s entire chemical weapons stockpile under tight deadlines and wartime conditions,” said Daryl Kimball of the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the step was significant step toward diminishing the threat of chemical warfare in the region.

But he warned that the use of chlorine gas remains a serious issue amid the three-year war in Syria that has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives.

“We are always going to remain truly appalled at the level of death and destruction that continues to consume Syria, notwithstanding the removal of these weapons,” he said.

An OPCW fact-finding mission last month found evidence that chlorine gas was used in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. The OPCW stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

The use of any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the removal of the chemicals “is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments.”

Louay Safi, a senior member of the rebel Syrian National Coalition, said he is skeptical Syria has declared all its chemical weapons.

“We know that even after Syria signed the chemical weapons agreement it used chlorine,” he said.

Some of the handed-over chemicals will be transferred to the U.S.-owned ship MV Cape Ray, which has sophisticated machinery that will essentially use water to break down the toxic material into less dangerous substances.

Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, agreed the reduction in arms is a net positive but said now it will become more evident that the U.S. has few good options for helping resolve Syria’s complicated conflict.

“The war in Syria was never about chemical weapons. That was just one chapter of it, and it’s not completely closed,” he said.

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Lolita Baldor in Washington, Edith Lederer in New York, and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Syria on Monday handed over to Western governments the last of the chemical weapons stockpile that it has acknowledged having, although doubts remain about whether all toxic weapons have truly been removed from the increasingly unstable region.

The milestone comes amid tense days across the Middle East, as Israel carried out strikes Monday on Syria in response to a Syrian attack in the Golan Heights a day earlier, and a Syrian cabinet member warned that Sunni insurgents in neighboring Iraq have been transferring weapons and equipment to rebel allies in Syria.

During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the Syrian handover of the stockpile as a significant step toward diminishing the threat of chemical warfare in the region, but warned that the use of chlorine gas remains a serious issue amid the three-year war in Syria that has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives.

“We are always going to remain truly appalled at the level of death and destruction that continues to consume Syria, notwithstanding the removal of these weapons,” he said.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirmed Monday that the final 8 percent of Syria’s 1,300-ton stockpile – which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas – has been loaded onto a Danish ship in the Syrian port of Latakia before it is destroyed.

He acknowledged that Syria could still be hiding some of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” Uzumcu said, while acknowledging that that was true of any country that his organization works with. He said Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts before its disarmament process began.

He described the Syrian government’s cooperation as “satisfactory.”

The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus that is believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Speaking at the mission’s staging ground in Cyprus, Kaag acknowledged Monday’s removal of the last toxic chemicals came several months behind an initial timeline set out by the U.N., due to security concerns in the region where they were stored.

“The last thing you want of course is when you’re dealing with chemical weapons elimination (is), that chemical weapons material falls into the wrong hands,” she said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals amid difficult circumstances, and credited in part “the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the U.N. Security Council supervision. Russia has been Assad’s most powerful international backer during the war.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Following a separate investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas was used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on that fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 210 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus. The OPCW stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

Louay Safi, a senior member of the rebel Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said he was skeptical whether Syria has declared all of its chemical weapons.

“We know that even after Syria signed the chemical weapons agreement it used chlorine,” he said.

“For us there will be no confirmation until the inspection team inspects (on the ground). We are waiting for the final report.”

The chemicals shipped out of Syria on Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them harmless. The Cape Ray is to arrive next week in Gioia Tauro, Italy, to accept the handover from Danish and Norwegian ships carrying the materials.

Once the chemicals are onboard the Cape Ray, it will move out into international waters, where sophisticated machinery on the ship will be used to make the chemicals inert. Uzumcu said that should occur within 60 days.

“Because they have now been secured by the international community and disposed of by the United States, these weapons will never be used by anybody,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “Nobody will be a victim of these weapons and that is an important step.”

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Lolita Baldor in Washington, and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Syria on Monday handed over to Western governments the last of the chemical weapons stockpile that it has acknowledged having, although doubts remain about whether all toxic weapons have truly been removed from the increasingly unstable region.

The milestone comes amid tense days across the Middle East, as Israel carried out strikes Monday on Syria in response to a Syrian attack in the Golan Heights a day earlier, and a Syrian cabinet member warned that Sunni insurgents in neighboring Iraq have been transferring weapons and equipment to rebel allies in Syria.

During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the Syrian handover of the stockpile as a significant step toward diminishing the threat of chemical warfare in the region, but warned that the use of chlorine gas remains a serious issue amid the three-year war in Syria that has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives.

“We are always going to remain truly appalled at the level of death and destruction that continues to consume Syria, notwithstanding the removal of these weapons,” he said.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirmed Monday that the final 8 percent of Syria’s 1,300-ton stockpile – which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas – has been loaded onto a Danish ship in the Syrian port of Latakia before it is destroyed.

He acknowledged that Syria could still be hiding some of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” Uzumcu said, while acknowledging that that was true of any country that his organization works with. He said Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts before its disarmament process began.

He described the Syrian government’s cooperation as “satisfactory.”

The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus that is believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Speaking at the mission’s staging ground in Cyprus, Kaag acknowledged Monday’s removal of the last toxic chemicals came several months behind an initial timeline set out by the U.N., due to security concerns in the region where they were stored.

“The last thing you want of course is when you’re dealing with chemical weapons elimination (is), that chemical weapons material falls into the wrong hands,” she said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals amid difficult circumstances, and credited in part “the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the U.N. Security Council supervision. Russia has been Assad’s most powerful international backer during the war.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Following a separate investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas was used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on that fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 210 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus. The OPCW stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

Louay Safi, a senior member of the rebel Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said he was skeptical whether Syria has declared all of its chemical weapons.

“We know that even after Syria signed the chemical weapons agreement it used chlorine,” he said.

“For us there will be no confirmation until the inspection team inspects (on the ground). We are waiting for the final report.”

The chemicals shipped out of Syria on Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them harmless. The Cape Ray is to arrive next week in Gioia Tauro, Italy, to accept the handover from Danish and Norwegian ships carrying the materials.

Once the chemicals are onboard the Cape Ray, it will move out into international waters, where sophisticated machinery on the ship will be used to make the chemicals inert. Uzumcu said that should occur within 60 days.

“Because they have now been secured by the international community and disposed of by the United States, these weapons will never be used by anybody,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “Nobody will be a victim of these weapons and that is an important step.”

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Lolita Baldor in Washington, and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Syria on Monday handed over to Western governments the last of the chemical weapons stockpile that it has acknowledged having, although doubts remain about whether all toxic weapons have truly been removed from the increasingly unstable region.

The milestone comes amid tense days across the Middle East, as Israel carried out strikes Monday on Syria in response to a Syrian attack in the Golan Heights a day earlier, and a Syrian cabinet member warned that Sunni insurgents in neighboring Iraq have been transferring weapons and equipment to rebel allies in Syria.

During a visit to Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the Syrian handover of the stockpile as a significant step toward diminishing the threat of chemical warfare in the region, but warned that the use of chlorine gas remains a serious issue amid the three-year war in Syria that has claimed an estimated 160,000 lives.

“We are always going to remain truly appalled at the level of death and destruction that continues to consume Syria, notwithstanding the removal of these weapons,” he said.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, confirmed Monday that the final 8 percent of Syria’s 1,300-ton stockpile – which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas – has been loaded onto a Danish ship in the Syrian port of Latakia before it is destroyed.

He acknowledged that Syria could still be hiding some of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” Uzumcu said, while acknowledging that that was true of any country that his organization works with. He said Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts before its disarmament process began.

He described the Syrian government’s cooperation as “satisfactory.”

The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus that is believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Sigrid Kaag, the head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Speaking at the mission’s staging ground in Cyprus, Kaag acknowledged Monday’s removal of the last toxic chemicals came several months behind an initial timeline set out by the U.N., due to security concerns in the region where they were stored.

“The last thing you want of course is when you’re dealing with chemical weapons elimination (is), that chemical weapons material falls into the wrong hands,” she said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals amid difficult circumstances, and credited in part “the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the U.N. Security Council supervision. Russia has been Assad’s most powerful international backer during the war.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Following a separate investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas was used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on that fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 210 kilometers (125 miles) north of Damascus. The OPCW stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

Louay Safi, a senior member of the rebel Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, said he was skeptical whether Syria has declared all of its chemical weapons.

“We know that even after Syria signed the chemical weapons agreement it used chlorine,” he said.

“For us there will be no confirmation until the inspection team inspects (on the ground). We are waiting for the final report.”

The chemicals shipped out of Syria on Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them harmless. The Cape Ray is to arrive next week in Gioia Tauro, Italy, to accept the handover from Danish and Norwegian ships carrying the materials.

Once the chemicals are onboard the Cape Ray, it will move out into international waters, where sophisticated machinery on the ship will be used to make the chemicals inert. Uzumcu said that should occur within 60 days.

“Because they have now been secured by the international community and disposed of by the United States, these weapons will never be used by anybody,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “Nobody will be a victim of these weapons and that is an important step.”

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Lolita Baldor in Washington, and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction, the organization charged with overseeing the elimination of such weapons said Monday.

The final 8 percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas, have been loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia, said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also known as OPCW.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, however, Uzumcu acknowledged that it is still possible Syria has avoided declaring some part of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” he said. However, he added that is true of any country that his organization cooperates with, and Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Cyprus, Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals despite difficult security circumstances caused by its ongoing civil war.

It credited the “firm political will of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the supervision of the U.N. Security Council.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Uzumcu described Syrian government cooperation as “satisfactory.”

Mission chief Kaag said that although the chemicals won’t be destroyed by an initial June 30 target date, “we’re very pleased with meeting this milestone.”

“It’s not every day, or rather it’s the first time, that a country at war accedes to a chemical weapons convention,” she said.

Some doubts remain as to whether Syria has seen the last use of toxic chemicals in warfare however.

Following an investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas has been used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on the fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 125 miles north of Damascus. It stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

The chemicals shipped out of Syria Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them inert.

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction, the organization charged with overseeing the elimination of such weapons said Monday.

The final 8 percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas, have been loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia, said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also known as OPCW.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, however, Uzumcu acknowledged that it is still possible Syria has avoided declaring some part of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” he said. However, he added that is true of any country that his organization cooperates with, and Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Cyprus, Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals despite difficult security circumstances caused by its ongoing civil war.

It credited the “firm political will of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the supervision of the U.N. Security Council.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Uzumcu described Syrian government cooperation as “satisfactory.”

Mission chief Kaag said that although the chemicals won’t be destroyed by an initial June 30 target date, “we’re very pleased with meeting this milestone.”

“It’s not every day, or rather it’s the first time, that a country at war accedes to a chemical weapons convention,” she said.

Some doubts remain as to whether Syria has seen the last use of toxic chemicals in warfare however.

Following an investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas has been used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on the fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 125 miles north of Damascus. It stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

The chemicals shipped out of Syria Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them inert.

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction, the organization charged with overseeing the elimination of such weapons said Monday.

The final 8 percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas, have been loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia, said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, also known as OPCW.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, however, Uzumcu acknowledged that it is still possible Syria has avoided declaring some part of its arsenal.

“I can’t say … that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” he said. However, he added that is true of any country that his organization cooperates with, and Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Cyprus, Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint United Nations-OPCW mission in Syria, said her team’s experts “are working closely with the Syrian Republic to look at any discrepancies or any revisions (to Syria’s declaration) that need to take place.”

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus believed to have killed more than a thousand people.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday it had eliminated the chemicals despite difficult security circumstances caused by its ongoing civil war.

It credited the “firm political will of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the initiative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin” to give up the arsenal under the supervision of the U.N. Security Council.

“This significant achievement is further evidence that Syria adheres to its international commitments,” the Syrian statement said.

Uzumcu described Syrian government cooperation as “satisfactory.”

Mission chief Kaag said that although the chemicals won’t be destroyed by an initial June 30 target date, “we’re very pleased with meeting this milestone.”

“It’s not every day, or rather it’s the first time, that a country at war accedes to a chemical weapons convention,” she said.

Some doubts remain as to whether Syria has seen the last use of toxic chemicals in warfare however.

Following an investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence that chlorine gas has been used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s government. But a May 27 attack on the fact-finding mission prevented it from inspecting an alleged site in the village of Kfar Zeita, 125 miles north of Damascus. It stopped short of saying which side was to blame.

Chlorine is a common industrial chemical and not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

The chemicals shipped out of Syria Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render them inert.

Sterling reported from Amsterdam. Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue contributed from Beirut.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The last of Syria’s acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons has been handed over to Western governments for destruction, the organization charged with overseeing the elimination of such weapons said Monday.

The final eight percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile, which included mustard gas and raw materials for making sarin nerve gas, have been loaded onto Danish and Norwegian ships in the Syrian port of Latakia, said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Speaking at a press conference in The Hague, Uzumcu acknowledged that it is possible Syria has avoided declaring some part of its arsenal.

“I can’t say that Syria doesn’t have any chemical weapons anymore,” he said. However, he added that is true for any country that his organization cooperates with, and Syria’s declared arsenal was close to estimates made by external security analysts and experts.

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

Uzumcu said that Syrian government cooperation had been “satisfactory.”

Following an investigation last month, an OPCW fact-finding mission found evidence chlorine gas may have been used as a weapon in fighting between rebels and Assad’s regime. But an attack on the mission prevented it from inspecting the alleged attack site and reaching conclusions about which side might have used it.

Chlorine is not considered a chemical weapon, though using any toxic material as a weapon is illegal under international law.

The chemical weapons shipped out Monday are being transported to a second ship, the U.S.-owned MV Cape Ray, which is equipped with facilities to render toxic material inert.

Sterling reported from Amsterdam.

Syria hands over last of declared chemical weapons

KDWN

AMSTERDAM (AP) — The organization charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program says the last of the country’s acknowledged stockpile has been handed over.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons director general Ahmet Uzumcu said Monday the final eight percent of the 1,300-ton stockpile has been loaded onto ships in the Syrian port of Latakia. Uzumcu was speaking at a press conference in The Hague.

Syria’s government agreed to surrender its arsenal last fall when the U.S. threatened punitive missile strikes after a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.