West fears discrepancies in Syria’s reporting of poison gas arsenal

Some Security Council members say weapons declaration is full of doubts, discrepancies

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 9:39pm

Western members of the UN Security Council have voiced concerns about ambiguities and discrepancies in Syria's original declaration of its poison gas arsenal that Damascus submitted last year to a global chemical arms watchdog.

The worries surfaced during a meeting of the 15-member council with Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) overseeing the destruction of Syria's toxic weapon stockpiles.

"Some council members were expressing concerns about unanswered questions on the declaration and stressed the need to get to the bottom of discrepancies," a council envoy said.

Diplomats said the delegations that raised those suspicions included Britain, France and the United States, which believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad never came clean about the full extent of his chemical arsenal despite his promises to destroy it.

They also expressed unease that Syria has yet to destroy 12 facilities it had used to produce chemical arms, diplomats said.

During the meeting, diplomats said, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin praised Assad's co-operation with Kaag's mission, while US ambassador Samantha Power, French ambassador Gerard Araud and British envoy Peter Wilson condemned recent chlorine gas attacks, which the West blames on Assad's forces.

The three Western envoys also declared support for the OPCW investigation into the chlorine gas attacks.

Under threat of US air strikes, Assad agreed with the US and Russia in September to dispose of his chemical weapons - an arsenal never formally acknowledged - after hundreds were killed in an August attack with the nerve agent sarin near Damascus.

Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the sarin attack, the world's worst chemical strike in 25 years.