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Syria's chemical arsenal 'removed'

By Xinhua in Damascus | China Daily | Updated: 2014-06-25 07:11

Syria removed the last of its chemical weapons arsenal from its territory on Monday, completing a deal reached last September to rid the war-torn country of government-owned chemical weapons materials.

"With this last movement, the total of declared chemical weapons materials destroyed or removed from Syria has reached 100 percent," the UN-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Joint Mission said in a statement.

"The most operationally challenging task within the effort to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program has come to an end," said the statement.

Syria agreed to surrender its arsenal in September under threat of airstrikes from the United States in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack on opposition forces.

Damascus rejected such claims, saying the chemical attack was a provocation by forces trying to justify military action against President Bashar al-Assad. However, Assad's government later signed a deal to remove its entire chemical weapons stockpile, thus fending off the imminent threat of US-led airstrikes.

The deal, brokered by the US and Russia and overseen by the UN-OPCW joint mission, set April 27 as the deadline for complete removal.

However, the completion of the task came almost two months late as a result of the volatile security conditions.

"The last thing you want is when you're dealing with chemical weapons elimination, that chemical weapons material falls into the wrong hands," said Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint UN-OPCW mission in Syria.

The chemicals will be shipped out of Syria by commercial vessels provided by some UN member states, and then transferred to the US ship Cape Ray for destruction at sea.

"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," he added

China welcomed the removal of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal on Tuesday, calling on all parties to build on the progress for the political settlement of the issue.

Calling the work "a major achievement", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China appreciates the efforts to remove and eliminate the weapons.

China has participated the mission by sending experts, donating equipment and sending escort vessels.

Russia, the other broker of the agreement, also expressed its satisfaction with the "successful" completion of the mission.

"Russia greets the successful end of a large-scale and unprecedented international operation to ship all components of chemical weapons and their precursors out of Syria with deep satisfaction," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

(China Daily 06/25/2014 page11)

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