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April 22, 2014

Syria Hands Over 86 Percent of Chemical Weapons

by VOA News

The global chemical watchdog says Syria has handed over more than 86 percent of its chemical weapons stockpiles.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Tuesday that Syria had delivered another batch of chemicals to the port of Latakia to be destroyed offshore on a U.S. ship. The agreed upon deadline to eradicate Syria of its chemical stockpile is June 30.

This news comes as U.S. officials have said they have indications toxic chemicals were used in a rebel area of Syria this month.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the alleged attack in the western village of Kafr Zita involved an industrial chemical that was probably chlorine.

"We are examining allegations that the government was responsible. We take all allegations of the use of chemicals in combat very seriously. And we are working to determine what happened. We will continue consulting and sharing information with key partners, including of course at the OPCW," said Carney.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said chlorine was not on the list of chemicals that Syria declared last year when it agreed under international pressure to destroy the arms.

Washington and its allies say President Bashar al-Assad's forces unleashed sarin gas last year, killing hundreds of civilians. The Syrian government said it was the opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons.

French President Francois Hollande said France also has indications that chemical weapons are still being used in Syria.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has expressed concern about Syria's plans to hold a presidential election on June 3 because the vote goes against an international outline for bringing a political solution in Syria.

The 2012 Geneva document calls for a transitional government for Syria, which would then hold fresh elections.

The election that the government announced Monday will give Assad the chance to win a third seven-year term in office. The opposition trying to oust him from power immediately dismissed the vote as a farce.

Assad is battling rebels in a conflict that began as peaceful protests in March 2011 and quickly grew into a civil war that has killed more than 150,000 people, mostly civilians.  

Another 2.6 million people have fled Syria to surrounding countries. The war has displaced more than 6.5 million people within Syria.