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MOSCOW, April 24. /TASS/. Terrorists in Syria do have the capabilities to produce the chemical warfare agent sarin, the director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, Mikhail Ulyanov, told a news conference on Monday.
"Terrorists in Syria do have chemical weapons and our Western partners are well aware of that," he said. "The terrorists do have mustard gas. We are being told, though, that they have no sarin and cannot have any, but it is much better to refrain from such unequivocal statements. In reality the situation looks different."
Ulyanov pointed to a number of possibilities explaining where terrorists in Syria may get sarin. Firstly, they can produce it themselves. "It is known that they acquired the necessary equipment and expertise for that. They have chemists trained at Western universities and the chemists are very good."
"There are two more possibilities that should be born in mind," Ulyanov said. "A couple of years ago Muamar Gaddafi’s brother said in one of the interviews that after the death of the Libyan Jamahiriya’s leader the Islamic State (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia - TASS) and other terrorist groups obtained access to underground storages of chemical weapons, including sarin. According to different sources, five to seven barrels containing sarin were stolen. Whatever the case, the chemical warfare agents emerged on the black market and it should not be ruled out they may have reached Syria."
"The situation involving the well-known chemical weapons that belonged to Libya" is a strong argument against ruling out that possibility. "A storage facility that had kept 720 tonnes of chemical warfare agents for a long time remained beyond the control of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," he explained. "When OPCW specialists visited that facility at last they found out that only 500 tonnes of the original 720 tonnes was left. Some 220 tonnes disappeared - either evaporated or ended up in the hands of terrorists and then taken to other countries of the Middle East, including Syria."
"Another possibility is quite appropriate in this context," Ulyanov believes. "After the invasion of Iraq the United States and Britain established control of a warehouse of old chemical weapons that belonged to the Saddam Hussein regime. According to their own statements, part of that stockpile was eliminated on site, and another part taken out of the country. That was operation was accompanied by crude violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The elimination of chemical weapons is permitted only with OPCW experts overseeing the process.
"Apparently, these two countries do not quite trust the OPCW and preferred to dispose of all amount on their own. Now nobody can swear that all chemical weapons were eliminated then," Ulyanov said. "Both possibilities should be probed into, but such an investigation is precisely what the Western partners have been trying to upset."