US threatens Syria military action over chemicals

US threatens Syria military action over chemicals
Sat Feb 1, 2014 09:01:35

US Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened Syria with the use of military force under the United Nations charter, accusing Damascus of delaying the hand over of its chemical arms.

"Every indication we have is that there is no legitimate reason why that (removal) is not happening now," Kerry claimed during a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

The top US diplomat further addressed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the agreement reached in the UN Security Council on the country’s chemical weapons destruction “makes it clear that if there are issues of non-compliance, they will be referred to the Security Council for Chapter 7 compliance purposes."

Chapter 7 refers to a UN article that sets out possible sanctions including the threat of military force.

Damascus, however, insists that security issues caused by the foreign-sponsored insurgents in Syria that are fighting against government forces are responsible for delays in the safe transport of the chemical out of the country. 

Under a deal reached last year, Syria is obligated to surrender all toxic agents for destruction by mid-2014.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Wednesday that Syria had handed over less than five percent of its arsenal, urging Damascus to pick up the pace in shipping out the stockpile.

This is while OPCW had itself previously alluded to security problems in delaying earlier efforts to transport  Syrian chemicals to the port of Latakia for shipment out of the country.

In its latest expression of concern over the safety of Syria’s chemical arms, OPCW’s Director General Ahmet Uzumcu referred on January 16 to reported attacks on two chemical weapons sites in Syria, adding, "It would be worrying if there are attempts to capture those chemicals. I don't think it's in the interests of anyone."

Uzumcu also noted at the time that the removal and destruction of the most dangerous agents in Syria's chemical weapons arsenal may not be completed until the end of June.

Russian officials, however, have rejected the suggestion that the United Nations Security Council would consider the use of force.

Moscow said it accepts Syria’s explanation that it had been unable to ship the chemicals because of security threats from the foreign-backed insurgents.

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said it was “counterproductive” to suggest the use of force.

“We agreed a long time ago … that there is no alternative to a political solution to the conflict in Syria,” Gatilov said.


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