United Nations: The head of the mission charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons called on President Bashar Assad's government and countries with influence on the warring parties Wednesday to ensure the immediate removal of the last containers of dangerous chemicals from the country.
Sigrid Kaag told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council that a number of key nations have confirmed that Syria's security concerns about transporting the final 7.2 percent of Syria's declared chemical stockpile to the port of Latakia "are legitimate." She said the joint U.N.-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons mission which she heads has separate information that security conditions in the contested area not far from Damascus "have been very volatile."
But she said getting the last containers on to Danish and Norwegian ships "is very, very critical" and she called for help from key nations. She said she will return to Damascus in a few days to press for immediate removal of the chemicals from "harm's way."
Kaag reiterated that Syria will not meet the June 30 deadline to completely destroy its chemical weapons.
She stressed that security issues on roads from the site where the last containers have been prepared for shipment "doesn't mean that additional delays can be incurred."
Kaag pointed to "the tremendous cost" for the countries that have supplied the vessels to carry the containers and the ships escorting them, as well as the United States which is providing a specially equipped ship with two machines that will render the chemicals inert. That process takes approximately 60 days.
Syrian authorities left the removal of chemicals from the contested site for a later time, knowing it would need additional security and possibly military operations, though officials told the government "that if you leave it for last there is a higher risk," Kaag said.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that a number of Security Council noted that "these security concerns were not there at a time earlier when they should have been moved at a much earlier stage."
Kaag said the Syrians have indicated that when security conditions permit removal will take place immediately.
The international effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons was sparked by a chemical weapons attack near Damascus last Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people. It was blamed on Assad's government, which denied involvement.
Under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia, the Syrian government is responsible for getting the most dangerous chemicals to the port, and destroying the rest inside the country.