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Syria speeds up chemical weapon handover days ahead of deadline

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Anton Chalakov /

With its deadline closing in, Syria has significantly sped up the rate at which it's been handing over chemical weapons materials for destruction, having now delivered 86.5 percent of its declared stockpile to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Though Syria's deadline is this Sunday, it's been quickly speeding toward it, bringing the delivery and destruction total up from around a quarter of its declared stockpile in early March to 65 percent just a week ago. Their full destruction is scheduled for completion by June 30th.

"We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly."

"This latest consignment is encouraging," OPWC director-general Ahmet Üzümcü says in a statement. "We hope that the remaining two or three consignments are delivered quickly to permit destruction operations to get underway in time to meet the mid-year deadline for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons."

Despite its progress in removing weapons, there are signs that chemical weapons are still in use within Syria. The US State Department said Monday that there are "indications" that a toxic industrial chemical was used in Syria earlier this month, in an attack that opposition groups reportedly say killed one and injured 50. It's not know whether the Syrian government was responsible for this attack, and the State Department says that it's now investigating.

The State Department believes that the chemical used was likely chlorine, which is not something that the Syrian government would have had to declare and hand over to the OPCW, as part of the agreement it made under threat of US intervention after a major chemical attack left over 1,000 dead. The Syrian government has apparently said that it was opposition forces that used chemical weapons, but the State Department was hesitant to lean in either direction when questioned about who was responsible. "We’re examining allegations. We’re obviously looking at the facts on the ground," spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a press briefing. "We shouldn’t forget the context of what the regime has been capable of in the past."