Syria has removed almost half of its chemical arsenal, an international watchdog overseeing the process said.

It has scrapped 45.6 per cent of its Category 1 chemicals, considered the most hazardous, along with less dangerous Category 2 chemicals, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

Syria remains committed to the destruction of its entire arsenal by June 30, The Hague-based watchdog said in a statement late Wednesday.

“Two shipments have in the last week been transferred from the (Syrian) port of Latakia to Norwegian and Danish vessels for destruction outside the country,” it said.

The OPCW added that Syria had handed over its entire stock of lethal mustard gas that does not require mixing to be used.

Earlier this month, the OPCW said that Syria had increased “the pace of removing or destroying its arsenal after missing critical deadlines”. Michael Luhan, an OPCW spokesman, told dpa by phone: “Syria is behind the timeline schedule, but it might catch up on the deadline.”

Syria agreed to dispose of its weapons in line with a Russia-U.S. deal, following international outrage and the threat of military strikes after hundreds died in a chemical attack on a rebel-held area outside the capital Damascus in August.

The chemicals were initially scheduled to be removed from the country by December 31, but the move was delayed because of the ongoing conflict in the country.

Under a U.N. resolution, Syria is to hand over all of its 1,300 tonnes of declared chemical weapons for destruction by mid-2014.

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