U.S. Could Begin Eliminating Syria's Chemical Weapons by January
The head of the OPCW said that the process to neutralize the chemical agents aboard a U.S. vessel could begin as early as next month. By Global Security Newswire
The United States could begin the at-sea elimination of Syria's most hazardous chemical-warfare materials before February, Agence France-Presse quoted the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as saying on Tuesday.
The U.S. Defense Department last week unveiled a proposal to neutralize "hundreds of tons" of Syrian chemical-warfare materials on the transport vessel MV Cape Ray. Syrian President Bashar Assad acknowledged the chemical arsenal and agreed to its destruction after an August nerve-gas attack raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention against his regime.
"We hope that by the end of January, the destruction on the American ship could start," OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said while in Oslo, Norway, to accept the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for his organization.
He added: "Much will depend in fact on the security situation and unfortunately the security situation has deteriorated over the past weeks. Some roads were not accessible."
Assad's forces on Monday appeared to complete their takeover of Nabek, a town located along a strategic route slated for use to transfer his chemical stockpile to the coastal city of Latakia, McClatchy newspapers reported. After arriving in the port city, the chemicals are expected to be loaded on foreign vessels for delivery to the Cape Ray.
"There could be some slight delays but I'm not that worried about delays," Üzümcü said in the AFP report. "For me what's important is this operation takes place in the safest and most secure manner."
The disarmament operation might fall short of meeting a Dec. 31 deadline for removing Syria's most hazardous warfare chemicals, as well as a Feb. 5 cutoff date for shipping out lower-priority stocks, the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying on Monday.
Separately, Üzümcü urged Israel, Egypt and other holdout nations to join an international ban on chemical-arms production, possession and use, Reuters reported.
"Now since Syria has become a member country, I think (Israel) can reconsider," he said.