WASHINGTON - The Syrian government still has effective control of its chemical weapons and should be able to transfer them to international inspectors for destruction despite the ongoing civil war, the top US military officer said on Wednesday.
Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the conflict in Syria posed "a very challenging environment" for eliminating the weapons under a framework agreement reached by the United States and Russia.
"Indicators are at this point, though, that the regime does have control of its stockpile," Dempsey told a Pentagon news conference. "So long as they agree to the framework, which causes them to be responsible for the security, the movement, the protection of the ... inspectors, then I think ... it is feasible."
Dempsey said he was still concerned about the security of the stockpile, but added: "We've got to make sure we keep our eye on all these things."
"The framework calls for it to be controlled, destroyed or moved," he said. "And I think in some combination ... it is feasible. But those details will have to be worked out" by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, which has the lead on the issue.