OPCW: Hard to Remove All Chemical Weapons from Syria by December
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - It will be "difficult" to remove all of Syria's most toxic chemical weapons from the country by a December 31 deadline, Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the global chemicals weapon watchdog OPCW said on Monday.
But the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has been charged with supervising the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, said a mid-2014 deadline to have all the weapons destroyed is realistic.
Earlier on Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, a monitoring group said on Monday.
Fighting in Syria poses a hurdle to implementing an agreement between Damascus and the OPCW to remove the deadliest chemicals weapons by the end of the year to be destroyed, Reuters reported.
The army started an offensive in mid-November to secure the highway, which passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, stretches along the Lebanese border and hosts many military bases and outposts.
The army has retaken the highway towns of Qara and Deir Attiyah from rebels fighting to oust Assad, and has made inroads around the town of Nabak close to the road.
"The road is open but not safe," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, adding that it remained vulnerable to rebel attack.