Final Destruction of Worst Syrian Chemicals Slides to End in June

(Reuters) -

The removal and destruction of the most dangerous agents in Syria’s chemical arsenal will likely be delayed until the end of June because of logistical and security problems, the head of the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday.

Mustard gas and the components for making Sarin and VX — known as “priority” agents — were originally to have been destroyed by the end of March.

Syria has already missed a December 31 goal to transport the most toxic substances to a port, and so far has loaded only a relatively small amount of chemicals onto the Danish cargo ship Ark Futura.

Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said he was “confident” that all the chemicals could be destroyed by the end of June — the original deadline for the complete elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program and associated agents.

“As we were not able to meet the timeline for the 31st of December, from my point of view what is important is really the end of June 2014, so we will do our best to meet it,” he said.

The OPCW is overseeing the destruction of the Syrian arsenal as part of an international accord brokered by Russia and the United States after poison gas attacks on the outskirts of Damascus killed hundreds, including children, last August.

Chemical weapons were likely used in five out of seven attacks investigated by U.N. experts in Syria, where a near three-year year civil war has killed more than 100,000 people.