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Syria misses deadline for chemical weapons handover

Syria on Wednesday failed to meet yet another deadline in the handover of its chemical weapons arsenal.

The internationally brokered disarmament agreement is now several weeks behind schedule, threatening an established June 30 deadline.

The Syrian government was to entirely surrender its weapons stockpile under mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, by February 5.

To date, Syria has relinquished less than five percent of the complete stockpile, sending only two shipments so far.

The weapons deal was reached after a diplomatic row between the United States and Russia last October, sidelining U.S. threats of a missile strike against government targets in Syria. The military threats followed international cries for action in the fallout of a massive chemical strike in the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds.

Russia announced Tuesday that ally Damascus would ship more chemical weapons soon.

But Western diplomats see no indication of movement. Last week, the OPCW said Syria must “pick up the pace.”

“Ways and means must be found to establish continuity and predictability of shipments to assure States Parties that the program, while delayed, is not deferred,” said OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü.

There have been no weapons shipments since January 27.

In an interview with Syrian state television on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad said the United States was to blame for the delay because of its “support for terrorists” who are blocking weapons transports to the port city of Latakia.

Faisal said Syria would comply with the June 30 deadline.

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