Monday 16 October 2017

Albania will not host destruction of Syrian chemical weapons

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Anthony Deutsch and Benet Koleka

Albania today rejected a US request to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, saying it was ill-equipped to handle the disposal of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste.

The announcement by the NATO member and staunch U.S. ally marks a setback for a Russian-American plan to get rid of Syria's sarin, mustard and other nerve agents deemed too dangerous to eliminate amid the country's civil war.

Negotiations went down to the wire, delaying scheduled discussions of the plan at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

"It is impossible for Albania to get involved in this operation," Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a televised address to the nation. "We lack the necessary capacities to get involved in this operation."

Just two months in the job, Rama had faced a growing chorus of opposition and street protests against the request.

The decision comes on the Nov. 15 deadline for a detailed plan to be agreed by the OPCW and Damascus.

"There will be no host country in the decision this afternoon," an OPCW source said. "But they (the United States) have alternatives." The source did not elaborate.

Syria in September agreed to destroy its entire chemical weapons stockpile in a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

President Bashar al-Assad accepted the plan after Washington threatened to use force in response to a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people in Damascus on Aug. 21.

Reuters

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