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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have taken control of a highway connecting Damascus to the coast that is needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals for destruction, a monitoring group said on Monday. Fighting in Syria poses a hurdle to implementing an agreement between Damascus and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove the deadliest chemicals weapons by the end of the year to be destroyed. The army started an offensive in mid-November to secure the highway, which passes through the mountainous area of Qalamoun, roughly 50 km (30 miles) north of Damascus, stretches along the Lebanese border and hosts many military bases and outposts. "The road is open but not safe," said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.