Syria reports two attacks on chemical arms sites

Syria reports two attacks on chemical arms sites
Thu Jan 9, 2014 08:15:47

Syria’s government has said that terrorists assaulted two storage sites for some of the deadly chemical weapons components it has pledged to eliminate.

It was the first time on Wednesday that the Syrian authorities reported such attacks on chemical arms storage sites in the three months since an international effort began to sequester and purge the country of the banned munitions.

Bassam Sabbagh, the Syrian representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Hague-based group that is helping oversee the destruction of the Syrian arsenal, reported the attacks at the group’s executive council meeting, according to a European diplomat who was present. The diplomat spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting’s deliberations were private and the Syrian’s account was not publicly disclosed.

Officials declined to comment on the account by Sabbagh, who told the executive council that insurgents had assaulted a storage site near the city of Homs and a second site outside Damascus, according to the European diplomat. Sabbagh did not specify when the attacks took place, the identities of the attackers or what damage, if any, had resulted, but said that the attacks “would have been disastrous if the terrorist plans had worked,” the European diplomat said.

“It was unexpected,” the diplomat said. “I was surprised that this was the first we had heard of them.”

The attacks underscore the difficulties in securing and destroying the chemical weapons in the midst of the conflict in Syria, a point that the organization’s officials have repeatedly made since an ambitious joint mission with the United Nations to eliminate them began in early October with the Syrian government’s consent.

The Syrian government is facing increased pressure to accelerate the process for ridding the country of the most dangerous materials among the 1,200 tons of toxic agents it has amassed over the years. It missed the deadline for exporting them by Dec. 31. The entire arsenal must be destroyed by June 30, under a Security Council resolution approved in September.

The first cargo of the most dangerous materials bound for export was loaded onto a Danish vessel on Tuesday in the Syrian port of Latakia, a step that the United Nations and the OPCW called an important sign of progress.


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