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80 Percent Of Syria's Chemical Weapons Removed: Monitors

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BEIRUT, April 19 (Reuters) - Syria has shipped out or destroyed approximately 80 percent of its declared chemical weapons material, the head of the international team overseeing the disarmament process said on Saturday.

Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said if the momentum was sustained, Syria should be able to meet its April 27 deadline to hand over all declared chemical agents.

"The renewed pace in movements is positive and necessary to ensure progress towards a tight deadline," Kaag said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed with the United States and Russia to dispose of the chemical weapons - an arsenal which Damascus had never formally acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of the capital last August.

Washington and its Western allies said it was Assad's forces who unleashed the nerve agent, in the world's worst chemical attack in a quarter-century. The government blamed the rebel side in Syria's civil war, which is now in its fourth year. (Reporting by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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