Faced with protests, Albania seeks rewards for destroying Syrian weapons

TIRANA - Albania's government faced a growing chorus of opposition on Thursday to a US request that it take on the job of dismantling Syria's chemical weapons, despite a vow by Prime Minister Edi Rama that the poor Adriatic nation would be rewarded financially for carrying out the task.
Rama, barely two months in the job, repeated that no decision had been taken, but indicated he was in favor.
"Our 'Yes' would be linked only to a plan and agreement that will make it clear to everyone that Albania will come out of this with its head held high, the richer for it and cleaner than it is today," he said late on Wednesday.
Albania has been identified as a possible destination for the weapons stockpiles, which Syrian President Bashar Assad has pledged to get rid of as he seeks to turn the tide of international opinion in a more than two-year civil war.
The request came under a Russian-American deal to destroy the weapons program by mid-2014, averting US missile strikes threatened after an August sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds of people.
A source briefed on the discussions said talks with Albania had reached a "technical level", ahead of a Friday deadline to agree a destruction plan with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which will meet in The Hague. Under the US-Russian timetable, all chemicals should be out of Syria by Dec. 31, except for one which should be destroyed on site by March.
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