Watchdog wants to speed up Syrian disarmament


A crew member of the Danish warship Esbern Snare wears a protective mask which shows the reflection of the Danish cargo ship Ark Futura, during emergency drills on the sea between Cyprus and Syria, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Two cargo ships and their warship escorts set sail at waters near Syria where they will wait for orders on when they can head to the Syrian port of Latakia to pick up more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) | Zoom

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The global chemical weapons watchdog on Wednesday urged Syria to intensify efforts to get its stockpile of raw materials for poison gas and nerve agents to a port, so it can be shipped out of the country and destroyed.

The first batch of toxic chemicals _ believed to be precursors for mustard gas and sarin _ was loaded onto a Danish cargo ship in the Syrian port of Latakia and shipped toward international waters on Tuesday, a week after the Dec. 31 deadline initially set for the chemicals to be removed from Syria.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons spokesman Michael Luhan said the Nobel Peace Prize-winning watchdog is "exhorting the Syrian government to intensify its efforts so we can conclude this critical part of this mission absolutely as fast as conditions allow."

Speaking at a closed-door meeting of the group's decision-making Executive Council, Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syria has been given "virtually all of the necessary logistical resources for the ground transportation" of chemicals to Latakia, according to an OPCW statement.

The chemicals were supposed to have been removed from Syria by Dec. 31, but poor security, bad weather and other factors meant the deadline was missed.

Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the joint United Nations/OPCW mission, briefed the U.N. Security Council privately in New York, and afterward told reporters that Syria's participation in the process "is constructive on all measures" and added that "the Syrian authorities are very keen to get this done."

Kaag expressed hope that the original June 30 final deadline for the complete destruction of the chemicals could still be achieved, saying there is "no reason to assume that delays should occur, all things being equal," if security problems in the Syrian civil war don't block the export of the chemicals.

The Danish ship is now in international waters waiting for the next consignment to arrive in Latakia.

The chemicals removed Tuesday will eventually be transferred to a U.S. ship, the Cape Ray, which has been fitted with special machinery. Once aboard the American vessel, the materials will be placed in a titanium reactor that uses heated water and other chemicals to render them inert. Italy has agreed to provide port facilities for the Danish ship to offload the chemicals onto the Cape Ray.

The confirmed use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21 killed hundreds of people, according to the U.S. government. The U.S. and Russia _ a staunch ally of Syria _ later reached agreement to eliminate the Assad regime's chemical weapons in a deal that averted U.S. military strikes against Syria.

___

Associated Press writer Peter James Spielmann contributed to this story from the United Nations.


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Top Stories

  • Failing
    So far, King County voters are rejecting higher car tab fees to save buses

  • Time for Change
    Shannon Drayer is expecting some changes after the Mariners' eighth straight loss

  • 21 and Over
    If 21 is the legal age for alcohol and marijuana, why not cigarettes?
ATTENTION COMMENTERS: We've changed our comments, but want to keep you in the conversation.
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.
comments powered by Disqus
Sign up for breaking news e-mail alerts from MyNorthwest.com
In the community
Do you know a student who stands out in the classroom, school and community?
Help make their dreams come true by nominating them for a $1,000 scholarship and a chance to earn a $10,000 Grand Prize. Brought to you by KIRO Radio and Comprehensive Wealth Management.

Do you know an exceptional citizen who has impacted and inspired others?
KIRO Radio and WSECU would like to recognize six oustanding citizens this year. Nominate them to be recognized and to receive a $2,000 charitable grant.