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Russia to host talks on eliminating Syria chemical arsenal

Source: Reuters - Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:04 PM
Author: Reuters
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MOSCOW, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Russia will host international talks on Friday on the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

The meeting in Moscow will draw together experts from Russia, the United States, Syria, the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ryabkov told Voice of Russia radio on Tuesday.

Syria agreed to abandon its chemical weapons under a deal proposed by Russia to avert potential U.S. military action after a deadly Aug. 21 sarin gas attack the United States blamed on President Bashar al-Assad's government.

A plan adopted by the OPCW in The Hague last month called for the most critical chemicals to be transported out of Syria by Dec. 31 and destroyed by mid-March. All other declared chemical materials would be eliminated by June 30.

"We are certain that we will be able to complete this process in the agreed timeframe, meaning in the first half of he coming year," said Ryabkov.

Russia sent trucks and armoured vehicles to Syria last week to transport toxins to the port city of Latakia for shipment out of the war zone by sea.

Russia has been Assad's most powerful supporter during the Syrian conflict, blocking attempts to push him from power or punish him with sanctions. Along with the United States and the United Nations, Russia is helping to organise a peace conference scheduled to start on Jan. 22 in Switzerland. (Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alexei Anishchuk and Gareth Jones)

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