Russia offers security as Syria destroys chemical arms: media

MOSCOW Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:02am EST

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on September 18, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (R) meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Damascus, in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA on September 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is ready to provide security at the Syrian port of Latakia and in Syrian waters while the country's chemical weapons arsenal is destroyed, Itar-Tass news agency quoted a Russian official as saying on Wednesday.

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 after an attack on the outskirts of Damascus which killed hundreds in August.

"Russia ... said it will provide security for Latakia and Syria's territorial waters during the operation to destroy the chemical weapons," state-run Itar-Tass quoted Vasily Titushkin, a deputy to Russia's representative at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as saying.

Russia has said it plans to provide vehicles and help transport chemical weapons to Latakia from sites elsewhere in Syria, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Russian navy was ready to escort ships removing the stockpile.

The chemicals will be destroyed on board a specially adapted U.S. ship because they are too dangerous to import into any country. There is no agreement yet on where the ship will anchor while the work is carried out.

Russia has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main international ally during the civil war that began in 2011. It initiated the agreement under which Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms to avert possible U.S. military strikes.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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