29 Dec 2013

Syria urged to help ship chemical weapons

4:19 pm on 29 December 2013

The global chemical weapons watchdog has called on Syria to "intensify its efforts" to help ship out its most dangerous chemical weapons.

The BBC reports a Norwegian frigate is ready to go to the Syrian port of Latakia to collect the weapons for destruction.

The chemical watchdog said it was up to Syria to mitigate the risks involved in transporting the stockpile to the port.

Syria agreed to abandon its arsenal to avert possible US military action after a sarin nerve gas attack in August.

Under a deal brokered by the US and Russia, the complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment must be completed by the first half of 2014.

The "most critical" chemicals include around 20 tons of the blister agent sulphur mustard.

The arms are due to be taken to Italy, where they will be loaded on to a US Navy ship and shipped into international waters for destruction in a specially created titanium tank on board.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body overseeing the destruction of the arms, said the logistic elements were in place to pick up the weapons.

OPCW chief Ahmet Umzucu said in a statement that the international community was "poised and ready".

He said the UN, Russia, and other countries directly involved in the removal had agreed on how to escort the cargo vessels from Syria, after a two-day meeting in Moscow.

The OPCW earlier said that it did not expect to meet the 31 December deadline for shipping out the "most critical" chemicals.

Shifting battle-lines and road-closures caused by bad weather appeared to be the main causes of the delay.