MOSCOW (AP) -- A top Russian official said Thursday that Moscow had previously stalled on destroying the nation's chemical weapons stocks, but said the government has proved its commitment to the effort and deserves a 5-year extension of the internationally-set deadline.
A former Russian prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko now oversees the Volga River region, where five of Russia's seven chemical weapons storage sites are located. He also heads a new committee charged with leading the political effort to destroy Russia's 44,000 tons of chemical weapons, the world's largest arsenal.
Russia ratified the Convention on Chemical Weapons in 1997, committing itself to destroy the stockpile within a decade. But it had long complained that it could not afford the estimated $7 billion program despite pledges of aid from the United States, Europe and Canada.
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