The U.S. is voicing concerns about Syria's delay in handing over its chemical weapons.
Syria already missed its Dec. 31 deadline to remove the most toxic chemicals from its stockpiles — including sarin gas. And now, Syria has fallen even more behind schedule. (Via The Guardian)
In a statement to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Thursday, a U.S. ambassador says, "The effort to remove chemical agents and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled." (Via U.S. Department of State)
He adds only 4 percent of Syria's declared weapons have been removed so far in a process that was supposed to be completed by June 30.
CBS reports the Syrian government says security concerns are causing the delays. But U.S. officials say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime is to blame — even suggesting Assad is using the weapons as a bargaining chip.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov decided on the weapons removal plan in Geneva as a result of a deadly chemical attack in Syria's capital last August amid an ongoing civil war. (Via ITN)
Although Assad denies responsibility for the attack that killed hundreds of people, it raised the possibility of a military conflict with the U.S. (Via CBS)
As part of the removal plan, the Syrian government is supposed to hand weapons over to military escorts sent from Norway and Denmark, according to the BBC. Those escorts would take the weapons to Italy before U.S. crew members take over in destroying the weapons.
According to the ambassador, the delay is also increasing costs to the nations involved in the weapons removal.