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US: Terrorist could get Syria chemical weapons

The United States is concerned that the Islamic State group and other terrorists could get a hold of chemical weapons if Syria is hiding any stockpiles, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday.

Samantha Power spoke to reporters after the Security Council received a briefing from Sigrid Kaag, who heads the international effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

The joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons will end at the end of the month after destroying nearly all of Syria’s declared stockpile. But Kaag said the OPCW is still working with Syria to resolve discrepancies in its declaration, which she said range from outdated records to discrepancies on the volume of materials.

Power said the U.S. is concerned not only that President Bashar Assad’s regime still has chemical weapons but that any stockpiles left behind could end up in the hands of the Islamic State group, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

“Certainly if there are chemical weapons left in Syria, there will be a risk that those weapons fall into ISIL’s hands. And we can only imagine what a group like that would do if in possession of such a weapon,” Power said, referring to the militant group by one of its known acronyms.

She said the “Security Council intends to stay very much on top of this.”

Power stressed, however, that the immediate concern is that Assad’s regime still possesses chemical weapons, saying that “there is one actor that has actually used chemical weapons.”

There was no immediate reaction from Syria’s U.N. Mission to Kaag’s briefing or Power’s remarks.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical arsenal last year when President Barack Obama threatened missile strikes in retaliation for a chemical attack on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, believed to have killed more than 1,000 people. Assad’s government had denied involvement in the attack, blaming the rebels.

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