U.S. Says Syria Delaying Chemical Disarmament

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Foot-Dragging Jeopardizing Goal of Destroying Arsenal, Say U.S. Officials.

The U.S. blamed Syria’s Assad regime for intentionally delaying efforts to remove chemical arms from the country for destruction, suggesting that the goal of liquidating the arsenal by midyear is in jeopardy.

The comments on Thursday mark a sharp change of tone from the Obama administration, which would face a stark choice if it concludes President Bashar al-Assad isn’t cooperating with the disarmament process. Until now, diplomats have praised the regime for destroying some arms-making gear and for cooperating with inspection efforts.

The U.S. decision to make public its criticisms comes at a time of deep dismay in Washington over how the Assad regime is handling talks with the opposition in Geneva that are intended to end Syria’s civil war and install a transitional government. The timing also reflects U.S. concerns that Mr. Assad isn’t taking his obligations seriously and is about to miss a second deadline for the removal of chemicals.

Some diplomats suggest that Mr. Assad’s delay might be designed to enhance his leverage in those talks and reflect his growing confidence in his regime’s survival. His position on the battlefield has strengthened in the face of a splintered opposition with limited foreign support.

It was unclear whether the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, The Hague-based group overseeing the destruction, would back up the U.S. accusation or leave Washington as the sole voice of confrontation.

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