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Syria still holds chemical weapons as deadline passes

An international organization tasked with collecting and destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles has said that over 90 percent of the stock has been received. The deadline for a complete handover has passed.

The head of a joint mission between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations said on Sunday in Cairo that less than 8 percent of Syria's stockpiles of

chemical weapons remain in the country

.

"We are talking of the remaining 7.8 percent chemical weapon material that is currently still in country in one particular site," Sigrid Kaag told reporters. While Sunday marked the deadline for the complete handover of Syria's arsenal, Kaag said "92.5 per cent of chemical weapons material removed or destroyed is significant progress."

In August, a

chemical weapons attack killed hundreds

of people near Damascus. A UN resolution passed shortly afterward stipulated that all 1,300 of Syria's known chemical weapons would be destroyed by June 30.

"The June 30 deadline is around the corner ... and we are hopeful that this is possible and will be met," Kaag said.

The civil war has gone on for over three years now, with regime forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad battling rebels that are increasingly banding with forces from outside of Syria, such as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

The fight over the city of Aleppo is particularly intense, and 21 people were killed there on Sunday when rebels attacked regime positions.

Despite the efforts of Kaag's team to rid Syria of chemical weapons, there have been reports in recent weeks of attacks involving chlorine gas. Both the rebels and pro-Assad forces blame each other for the attacks.

Since the start of the conflict in Syria in March 2011, it is estimated that more than 150,000 people have been killed and

millions displaced

.

mz/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa)

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