U.S. offers to destroy Syria's chemicals at sea: OPCW

AMSTERDAM Sat Nov 30, 2013 12:52pm EST

Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations (OPCW-UN) joint mission on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons programme, speaks during a news conference in Damascus November 30, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations (OPCW-UN) joint mission on eliminating Syria's chemical weapons programme, speaks during a news conference in Damascus November 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The United States has offered to destroy Syrian chemicals on a U.S. ship, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Saturday, and is looking for a suitable Mediterranean port where processing can be carried out.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been under pressure to find an alternative plan for the destruction of Syria's poison gas arsenal after Albania backed out of hosting the work.

The OPCW said 35 firms had expressed an interest in bidding for commercial contracts by Friday's deadline for the treatment of about 800 tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) of bulk industrial chemicals that are safe to destroy in commercial incinerators.

But another 500 tonnes of chemicals, including nerve agents, are seen as too dangerous to import into a country or process commercially, and will be treated offshore on the U.S. ship.

The OPCW said the operation would be carried out on a U.S. vessel at sea using hydrolysis, adding a naval vessel was undergoing modifications to support the operations.

"The United States has offered to contribute a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize Syria's priority chemicals," an OPCW statement said.

The Hague-based organisation, which won the Nobel Peace prize last month, has been given the task of overseeing destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stocks under an agreement which averted U.S. missile strikes.

It followed a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus in August which killed hundreds of people.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint UN-OPCW Syria team, said on Saturday the mission faced a challenge to get the most lethal chemical agents out of Syria by the end of the year target, in the midst of a civil war which has killed 100,000 people.

"But we are working to make sure we can meet all the deadlines," she told reporters in Damascus at the end of a week of talks with Syrian officials.

She said the chemicals, located at various sites across Syria, would be packed, sealed and transported to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

"Then it will be transported to other ships by other member states that will send it to, in principle, a U.S. vessel. It will not be (destroyed) in Syrian territorial waters".

(Reporting by Sara Webb in Amsterdam and Marwan Madkesi in Damascus; Editing by Janet Lawrence and David Evans)

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Comments (13)
stambo2001 wrote:
Now that is some funny stuff. The Americans are years behind on THEIR promise to destroy THEIR chemical weapon stockpile (one of the largest on the planet) yet have the resources to destroy the Syrian stockpile?
But I guess if you’re the USA you’d be too busy researching new smaller usable nuclear weapons and biological weaponry (even after stating to have stopped production) to keep that promise. More of the same from Uncle Sam.

Nov 30, 2013 7:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
A lot of the blame for today’s mess in the Middle East can be attributed to the foolishness of the French; Google: French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon….of course, after WW1, the British screwed up royally too.

Why not anchor the ship doing the WMD dirty work off the French coast, on the posh Riviera…this would be right, just and fitting….the French are responsible for much of the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction….they built Israel’s nuclear works at Dimona, for example.

Let them eat cake….yellow cake or whatever.

Nov 30, 2013 8:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
zeddd wrote:
must it go into the sea. i’m not sure the sea can take much more of us.

Nov 30, 2013 10:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
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