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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A United Nations diplomat said Tuesday that the first batch of Syrian poison gas precursor chemicals has been loaded onto a Danish cargo ship and taken out of the war-torn country.

The announcement by Sigrid Kaag that the raw materials had been loaded onto the ship at Syria's Latakia port marked a belated but crucial step in the international operation to rid President Bashar Assad of his declared chemical weapons program by mid-year.

Kaag is the Dutch diplomat leading the joint mission by the U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to destroy Syria's chemical stockpile.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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