Syrian army retakes road needed to ship out chemical arms

by
December 9, 2013

Syrian President Bashar al-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, state television said on Monday.

Russia said it could provide transport for the chemicals to get them to the port of Latakia for removal.

Nevertheless, Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the global chemical weapons watchdog, said it would be hard to remove all of Syria’s deadliest chemical arms from the country by a December 31 deadline.

Fighting in Syria poses a major hurdle to efforts by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to eliminate the government’s chemical arsenal.

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.

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