* Denmark says its ships "cant wait forever" for Syrian
* Two cargo ships taking incremental deliveries of Syrian
* Chemical agents will eventually be destroyed
By Michele Kambas
ABOARD THE ARK FUTURA, EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN, May 13
D enmark, providing one of two container vessels
taking delivery of Syrian chemical weapons for destruction,
urged Damascus on Tuesday to expedite the process and said it
could not wait beyond a June 30 deadline.
Syria missed several interim deadlines for relinquishing its
toxic stockpile, although most of the declared amount has now
been removed or destroyed, and Western officials are concerned
about discrepancies and ambiguities in Syria's inventory
declaration that could leave some of its arsenal intact.
Damascus's poison gas programme was to be completely
eliminated by June 30 but that deadline is unlikely to be met,
diplomats say, partly because it will take at least two months
for a U.S. ship to destroy the chemical agents at sea.
Two cargo ships - from Denmark and Norway - from a Nordic
maritime force remain in the eastern Mediterranean taking
incremental deliveries of Syrian toxins.
Journalists were given access to the ships on Tuesday, a
first since Damascus started handing over its chemical agents in
January. The two vessels, the Ark Futura and the Taico, are
anchored southeast of Cyprus in international waters.
"It is the ambition of Denmark, of the world community that
we will be able to meet the deadline," Foreign Minister Martin
Lidegaard told Reuters Television aboard the Ark Futura, a
vessel whose latest cargo consisted of 110 containers of mustard
gas and precursor chemicals for sarin and VX nerve gas.
"We have mandated our ships to stay here until the 30th of
June, but we haven't mandated them any longer and that is why we
urge the Syrian government to move now; we can't stay here
forever, and we cannot keep on waiting forever," he said.
The Ark Futura is handling so-called Priority 1 agents
which, when prepared, produce deadly toxins. Three of the 110
containers already contain ready-made mustard gas, 80 precursors
of sarin and the remainder precursors to VX.
Under threat of U.S. air strikes, the Syrian government
agreed with the United States and Russia in September to dispose
of a chemical arsenal - which Damascus had never formally
acknowledged - after hundreds of people were killed in an August
attack with the nerve agent sarin on the outskirts of Damascus.
But on the Ark Futura there was little to betray the deadly
cargo in the containers other than black-and-white "toxic"
signs, and, on closer examination, barcoded seals of the
watchdog Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW) and stickers of the Syrian government.
Danish chemical experts on board the Ark Futura said the
chemicals were under safe supervision.
"Our daily routine is looking at these containers several
times making sure nothing happens, that everything is safe for
the ship and military crew on board," said Pers Andersen, a
Danish military warrant officer.
Andersen said the mission anticipated another five
containers - four holding precursors for sarin and one a
precursor for VX. Another 11 containers were expected on the
Taico, which was taking in less dangerous agents.
Just over 92 percent of chemicals have been handed over to a
joint task force of the United Nations and the OPCW.
But reported chlorine gas attacks in the civil war last
month, if proven, could prove a major weakness in the chemical
deal since chlorine was never included in Syria's inventory list
submitted to the OPCW.
(Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)