Italy to provide port for Syrian chemical weapons transfer

ROME Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:54pm EST

ROME Dec 15 (Reuters) - Italy has agreed to provide a port for use in the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal between ships on the way to its destruction at sea, its Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

Syria is due to hand over deadly toxins which can be used to make sarin, VX gas and other lethal agents under an international agreement forged in the wake of an attack on the outskirts of Damascus which killed hundreds last August.

Danish and Norwegian ships will collect the toxic arsenal from the Syrian port city of Latakia. The chemicals will be destroyed at sea on board a specially adapted U.S. ship because they are too dangerous to import into a country.

Until now, it was not clear how the containers of chemicals could be transferred from the Scandinavian ships onto the U.S. vessel.

An Italian Foreign Ministry official said the use of the port was the maximum role Italy was prepared to serve in the operation, and that the chemicals would not touch Italian territory at any point.

The official would not identify which port would be used.

Syria's 2-1/2-year civil war has killed at least 125,835 people, according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and over 2 million refugees have fled, often overwhelming neighbouring countries. (Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Alison Williams)

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