WASHINGTON Aug 18 A specially equipped U.S.
ship has finished neutralizing all 600 metric tons of the most
dangerous of Syria's chemical weapons components surrendered to
the international community this year to avert threatened air
strikes, the Pentagon said on Monday.
It said the Cape Ray, equipped with the U.S.-developed Field
Deployable Hydrolysis System, neutralized 581.5 metric tons of
DF, a sarin precursor chemical, and 19.8 metric tons of HD, an
ingredient of sulfur mustard, while afloat in the Mediterranean.
The vessel will travel to Finland and Germany in the next
two weeks to unload the resulting effluent, which will undergo
treatment as industrial waste to render it safer, a Pentagon
It was the first time chemical weapons components had been
neutralized at sea, the Pentagon said.
Damascus agreed last September to a Russian proposal to give
up its chemical weapons to avert threatened military strikes by
the United States and France, which accused Syria of using the
arms against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
A number of countries are involved in eliminating the
chemical stockpiles. The United States was selected to dispose
of the worst of the chemical weapons components because it had
recently developed a mobile version of the hydrolysis system it
uses for neutralizing chemical stockpiles.
The system uses substances and mixtures such as water,
sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite to neutralize bulk
amounts of chemical warfare agents, according to the U.S. Army's
Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.
Earlier this year, the hydrolysis system was placed aboard
the Cape Ray, a 648-foot (198-meter) vessel that is part of the
U.S. Maritime Administration's ready reserve force of 46 ships.
The ship was held at Rota, Spain, for several months due to
Syrian delays in handing over its declared stockpiles of
chemical agents. The Cape Ray began neutralizing the chemicals
after picking them up from Italy in late June.
(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Howard Goller)