Syria ships out first batch of chemical weapons

Head of al-Qaeda rebel group calls for ceasefire between opposition factions

Syrian information minister Omran Zoabi said today the Syrian people have decided president Bashar al-Assad should be nominated for another term and would pressure him to stand in elections this year. The comments were the strongest indication yet that Dr Assad intends to extend his rule and are sure to anger opposition politicians and fighters. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

Syrian information minister Omran Zoabi said today the Syrian people have decided president Bashar al-Assad should be nominated for another term and would pressure him to stand in elections this year. The comments were the strongest indication yet that Dr Assad intends to extend his rule and are sure to anger opposition politicians and fighters. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

Tue, Jan 7, 2014, 15:48

Syria has moved the first batch of chemical weapon materials out of the country after transporting it from two sites to the port city of Latakia and onto a Danish vessel, the international chemical weapons watchdog has said.

“The vessel has been accompanied by naval escorts provided by Denmark and Norway, as well as the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement. “It will remain at sea awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port.”

Ceasefire

Meanwhile, the head of an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group in Syria called on Tuesday for a ceasefire between opposition factions who have clashed for five days in the bloodiest episode of infighting since the revolt against president Bashar al-Assad began.

The audio recording from the leader of the powerful Nusra Front, who goes by the name Abu Mohammed al-Golani, also laid much of the blame for the fighting on an al-Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

While both groups have roots in the global Islamist network and welcome foreign militants, the Nusra Front has cooperated more with other rebel groups and has largely avoided the power struggles that ISIL has dealt with since wresting control of many opposition-held areas from other groups.

“Many rebel units have committed transgressions, just as the mistaken policies followed by played a prominent role in fuelling the conflict,” he said.

Mr Golani proposed forming an Islamic legal council to solve feuds among the rebels and called for the militants to return to their shared goal of fighting Dr Assad’s forces.

“This unfortunate situation has pushed us to launch an initiative to save the battlefields from being lost. This will be done by forming an independent legal council by all the (rebel) factions in addition to a ceasefire,” Mr Golani said.

Reuters

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