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Russia: Syria consolidates its chemical weapons

By CNN Staff
December 23, 2012 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: 143 reported killed
  • Russia's foreign minister says Syria has consolidated its chemical weapons
  • The move is to prevent the "wrong people" from getting them, he says
  • Syria has denied having chemical weapons

(CNN) -- Syria has consolidated its chemical weapons into one of two locations from its usual places scattered across the country, Russia's foreign minister said Saturday.

The move comes as unrest in the country extends to nearly two years, with rebels making gains recently.

NATO: Syrian forces firing more Scud missiles

"As of right now... the [Syrian] government is doing all it can to safeguard those weapons," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

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"We are following all leads concerning chemical weapons," the foreign minister said, adding that the consolidation was a measure to assuage fears that such weapons could end up in "the wrong hands," the agency reported.

The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 40,000 lives and has seized the attention of world powers for months because of the relentless brutality and the specter of the Syrian government mulling the use of chemical weapons.

Syria denies it has such weapons and says it would not use them even if it did.

Across Syria, 143 people were killed Saturday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said, including 75 in Damascus and its suburbs. CNN could not independently verify those numbers.

The powerful car bomb blew off the facade of nearby buildings and spilled debris as residents tried to assess the damage. State-run television blamed "terrorists" -- the term it uses for the rebels -- for the attack.

The Syrian civil war started in March 2011 when a government crackdown on civilian demonstrators morphed into a fight between the regime and rebels.

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