March 9, 2014
US accuses Syria of dragging its feet on chemical arms
The United States accused Syria of dragging its feet on the handover of chemical weapons, a delay that puts at risk what US President Barack Obama touted only this week as a US diplomatic achievement in Syria's civil war.
Saying that just 4 percent of Syria's deadliest chemical weapons materials had been removed, the Obama administration said the Syrian government's requests for additional equipment were "without merit" and demanded action to get back on schedule to comply with an international disarmament deal.
"The United States is deeply concerned about the failure of the government of Syria to transport to (the port of) Latakia all of the chemical agent and precursors as mandated," the United States told the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world's chemicals weapons watchdog in The Hague.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision in September to give up chemical arms helped him avoid threatened US air strikes in retaliation for a poison gas attack near Damascus in August that killed hundreds of people, many of them women and children.
But the internationally backed operation to dispose of Syria's chemical arsenal is now six to eight weeks behind schedule and it will miss next week's deadline for sending all toxic agents abroad for destruction, sources familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
Delays pose a difficult challenge for Obama, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for failing to do more to quell Syria's nearly 3-year-old civil war.