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US to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-11-30

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has been tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, confirmed on Saturday that some will be “neutralised” aboard a US naval ship.

The United States will help destroy Syrian chemical weapons aboard a US naval ship, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Saturday.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW’s director-general, said the US government will contribute “a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralise” the weapons offshore, most likely on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The weapons are to be removed from Syria by Dec. 31.

The OPCW also wants nearly 800 tons of chemicals, many of which are industrial chemicals regularly destroyed at civilian facilities all over the world, to be dealt with by private companies as part of the organisation’s ambitious plan to completely eradicate Syria’s chemical weapons program by mid-2014.

Uzumcu said 35 private companies have applied so far and are at an early stage of being vetted. He also called on governments of the 190 countries that belong to the OPCW to contribute funds to the effort, or by contracting directly with companies to help destroy chemicals.

The OPCW was tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under the terms of a US-Russian agreement reached in September.

Since then, the OPCW has scrambled to meet ambitious deadlines for disarming and destroying Syria’s estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas. Syria’s production capacity was destroyed or rendered inoperable by the end of October, the OPCW said, and now it is tackling the tougher problem of how to deal with its existing weapons and hazardous chemicals.

An initial plan to destroy the weapons on land was rejected after no country was willing to accept the hazardous waste.

In Saturday’s statement, the OPCW said a suitable US naval vessel “is undergoing modifications to support the operations and to accommodate verification activities by the OPCW.”

The OPCW’s executive council met Friday night and a general meeting of member states begins Monday.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2013-11-30

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