U.S. says deadline still in place for Syrian chemical weapon disposal

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons continues to support a December 31 deadline for removing priority one chemicals from Syria, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, made the remarks on Wednesday during her daily press briefing. Harf responded to a question about reports the chemical weapon disposal timetable might be postponed. Harf said the OPCW came out with a statement refuting such reports.

"Well, no, the OPCW actually came out today - the executive council did, I think it's today - with a statement continuing to support the December 31 deadline for removing the priority one chemicals from Syria," Harf said. "We're still, obviously, making progress."

Harf noted that the deadlines are milestones that help the international community make forward progress toward the goal of destroying Syria's chemical weapons. She said the OPCW Executive Council outlined more information about the removal and destruction plan as part of the statement.

Harf also responded to a question about a report that Western diplomats are open to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad staying in power for the next year. She denied the report as categorically false.

"We have a longstanding position that has not changed: Assad must go," Harf said. "We've said very clearly that given the blood he has on his hands, he has no place in the future of Syria. I would point you, actually, to the press statement issued after the most recent London 11 senior officials meeting on Friday states clearly, 'Assad will have no role in Syria as his regime is the main source of terror and extremism.'"