ROME Jan 17 Mayors of Italian towns near the
port designated as a transit site for Syria's chemical arsenal
said on Friday they would protest at the decision unless they
were guaranteed maximum security against any environmental or
"We want to make sure safety measures are at the maximum
level and we want the government to better inform us so we can
reassure our residents. If we are not better informed, then
there will be protests," said Rosarno Mayor Elisabetta Tripodi.
The chemicals are being sent to Italy under an accord
brokered by Russia and the United States after poison gas
attacks in Syria's civil war in August that killed hundreds of
people. The nerve gas agents are to be later destroyed at sea.
The Italian government has chosen Gioia Tauro, the country's
biggest container port located in the southern region of
Calabria, to move 560 tonnes of Syria's "priority A" chemicals
from a Danish ship to an American one.
Mayor Domenico Madaferri of San Ferdinando, the town closest
to Gioia Tauro, initially threatened to block the facility while
others mayors appeared more flexible. "I'm realistic. I know we
cannot block the port whose operations are very important for
the local economy," Tripodi told Reuters.
Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi and Foreign Minister Emma
Bonino have both said regional fears are unfounded, noting that
around 30,000 tonnes of equally dangerous chemicals passed
through the port without incident last year.
"It's only right to involve the mayors, the local
administrators and the region," Lupi said on Friday. "Together
we can better guarantee safety."
Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the world's chemical weapons watchdog,
has said the entire operation would take no more than 48 hours
and that the chemicals would not be stored at the port but only
transferred from one ship to another.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)