Boost OPCW to 'dismantle' Syria's toxic arms: France

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Countries must help boost the work of the world's chemical arms watchdog so it can definitively dismantle Syria's "secret" toxic weapons programme, the French ambassador urged at talks Monday.

"The priority today is to give the technical secretariat the means to complete the dismantling of the Syrian programme," Phillipe Lalliot told the closed-door meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Following recent alleged attacks "we all know, Syria has maintained a secret chemical programme since 2013," the ambassador added. That was a reference to the year when under international pressure Syria finally joined the OPCW and admitted to stockpiling toxic arms.

"The facts are there, and they defy the most obscene lies and the most absurd denials," Lalliot said in his speech at emergency OPCW talks, seen by AFP.

The name of Douma, where 40 people died in a suspected poison gas attack on April 7, now joined others like "Ypres, Halabja, Ghouta and Khan Sheikhun in the terrifying litany of chemical massacres," he said.

OPCW experts said in 2016 that all of Syria's declared stockpile of chemical weapons had been destroyed. But the organisation's head Ahmet Uzumcu has repeatedly warned of "gaps and inconsistencies" in Damascus's declaration.

Lalliot also voiced France's support for the work of the OPCW which has come under attack in recent days, notably over its findings relating to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain.

"We have every confidence in the independent, impartial and professional work of its teams, even as they work in difficult and dangerous circumstances," he told the OPCW's governing executive council.

"Our priorities are clear. To guarantee the definitive destruction of all of Syria's secret chemical weapons arsenal; to fight against impunity and punish those responsible for the chemical attacks; and to put in place an impartial and independent mechanism to find out who is behind the attacks," Lalliot added.

© 2018 AFP

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