Chemical experts eye port to load Syria toxins onto US ship

US modifying a naval vessel to be able to destroy chemicals; Italy, Norway and Denmark offer to act as middlemen.

UN chemical inspectors in Syria 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah)
UN chemical inspectors in Syria 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah)
UNITED NATIONS- The United Nations and theglobal chemical weapons watchdog are awaiting approval from acountry to use its port to load Syria's most deadly chemicalsonto a US ship for destruction offshore, the head of themission said on Wednesday.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nationsand the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsSyria mission, briefed the UN Security Council on Wednesdaybut did not identify which country she had been in talks with.

The OPCW said on Saturday the United States had startedmodifying a US naval vessel to be able to destroy Syria's 500tons of chemicals, including actual nerve agents - neutralizingthem offshore with other chemicals in a process known ashydrolysis.

Italy, Norway and Denmark have offered to transport Syria'schemicals from the northern Syrian port of Latakia with militaryescorts. The chemicals would then be transferred to the USship at another port.

"We're still awaiting confirmation by a member state that aport is available for trans-loading, so it will be trans-loadingin a port," Kaag told reporters after briefing the council.

When asked if the port to be used would likely be in theMediterranean, she said: "The geographic range is quitesignificant, so no, not necessarily. At the moment, we'rediscussing and we're hoping to have early confirmation soon."

The Hague-based OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace Prize inOctober, has been given the task of overseeing destruction ofSyria's chemical weapons stocks under an agreement that avertedUS missile strikes.