Chemical arms watchdog decides to destroy Syrian weapons at sea

The global watchdog tasked with the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile decided Tuesday to destroy the dangerous arsenal aboard a U.S. vessel at sea, as proposed by the United States.

The Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons based in The Hague approved at its meeting the plan to neutralize about 500 tons of Syria's priority chemicals, including ingredients for the nerve gas sarin, aboard the MV Cape Ray using hydrolysis.

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said at the council the removal of the priority chemicals from Syria could miss the year-end deadline due to worsening security conditions in the civil war-torn country, diplomatic sources said.

However, the council did not extend the deadline and agreed to make efforts to achieve the early removal of the weapons, the sources said.

According to the plan approved by the council, some 500 tons of the 1,300-ton Syrian chemical weapons stockpile will be shipped from a port in Latakia, northwest of Syria, to a port in Italy and then carried to the U.S. vessel.

Chemical weapons are scheduled to be neutralized by the end of March at two mobile disposal facilities aboard the ship. The plan did not specify the sea area where the arsenal will be destroyed.

The remaining 800 tons of chemicals which are deemed relatively low-risk will be moved out of Syria by Feb. 5 and dismantled by the end of June.

OPCW has received expressions of interest from more than 40 private companies to dispose of the 800 tons of weapons and waste liquid generated by the disposal aboard the U.S. ship.

Russia, which is close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, will support the shipment of chemicals within Syria, while Norway and Denmark will provide vessels to move the weapons out of the country, according to the sources.