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Syria turns over large quantity of mustard gas

GENEVA — After weeks of deepening foreign frustration over missed deadlines and other delays in Syria’s elimination of its chemical weapons, the international mission policing the process reported Wednesday that Syria had delivered a significant consignment of mustard gas, one of the deadliest toxic agents, to the port of Latakia to be exported and destroyed.

Sigrid Kaag, the coordinator of the international mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, called the delivery “an important step” toward eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons in the midst of the 3-year-old civil war there.

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The latest shipment came after a series of meetings at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in recent days, aimed at resolving a rift between Syria and its allies, notably Russia, Iran, and China, and most Western governments over how to deal with the failure of President Bashar Assad’s government to honor deadlines for disposing of the arsenal, which totaled about 1,200 tons of deadly chemical agents and precursor materials.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Hague-based organization, while welcoming the shipment as “encouraging,” also said “much work nonetheless remains to be done, and we look to the Syrian government to accelerate its efforts to transfer the remaining chemicals in regular, predictable, and systematic movements.”

Under a previously announced timetable, Syria committed to export its most deadly agents by the end of 2013 and the remainder by Feb. 6. The destruction of its most dangerous chemicals, to be carried out on a specially equipped American vessel, the Cape Ray, was supposed to be completed by the end of March. The entire arsenal must be eradicated by the end of June, under a Security Council resolution.

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