(AP) The head of an international mission to Syria charged with destroying the country's chemical weapons called on President Bashar Assad's government Sunday to ensure it meets a deadline to destroy all its toxic chemicals.
Also Sunday, two more candidates announced their candidacy for Syria's upcoming June presidential election, state television announced, a poll Assad is expected to win.
Sigrid Kaag of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told reporters in Damascus that 92.5 percent of Syria's chemical materials had been removed from the country and destroyed. She described it as "significant progress," though she says the government needs to ensure the remaining materials are eradicated by the end of the month.
"It's important that the last push is made toward full completion," Kaag said.
Syria missed an April 13 deadline to destroy all its chemical weapons in accessible locations. International experts say that could have serious impact on making a June 30 deadline for the removal of all its chemical weapons.
"An important (achievement) has been made in permanently closing down production facilities," Kaag said, adding it came in "a very short period of time and under difficult and challenging security conditions."
However, experts have not had access to 12 chemical weapons production facilities yet, Kaag also said.
Meanwhile, Sawsan Omar Haddad, a 51-year-old engineer from the coastal province of Latakia, became the first woman to register as a candidate in Syria's upcoming June 3 presidential election. In a live broadcast from the parliament Sunday, speaker Jihad Laham said Haddad registered her candidacy a day earlier.
Along with Haddad, Samir Ahmed Moalla, a 43-year professor of international law from the province of Quinetra, also registered, the speaker said, bringing the total number of candidates so far to four.
Assad has suggested he would seek a third, seven-year term, though he has not announced his candidacy yet.
Surk reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Yasmin Saker in Beirut contributed to this report.