Sep 19, 9:51 AM EDT

OPCW document: Syria had ricin program


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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- Syrian authorities have declared that they once had a program to produce the deadly toxin ricin, according to an official document of the global chemical weapons watchdog.

A report on the website of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that Damascus revealed in July "a facility for the production of ricin" along with two other "chemical weapons-related facilities."

Nobody at the OPCW was immediately available for comment Friday.

Syria's latest declaration states that "the entire quantity of ricin produced was disposed of prior to the entry into force" of the Chemical Weapons Convention following Damascus' decision to join last year, according to the OPCW report that was prepared for a behind-closed-doors meeting and later posted online.

The report says the "newly declared facility is subject to verification and destruction," but adds that it is "located in an area that is not under Syrian Government control," raising questions about how it can be destroyed amid the ongoing conflict raging in the country.

The report also raises doubts about the completeness of Syria's initial declaration of its chemical weapons stockpile even as efforts to destroy the country's chemical arsenal near completion.

Separately, an OPCW fact-finding mission said on Sept. 10 that it was virtually certain chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in northern Syria this year. The mission did not apportion blame for the attack, but British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said its findings "corroborate allegations that the Assad regime is continuing to use chemical weapons in Syria, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention."

Damascus joined the OPCW last year in a move widely seen as averting U.S. airstrikes in the aftermath of a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians.

The U.S. and Western allies accused the Syrian government of being responsible for that attack, while Damascus blamed rebels.

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