Not in My Backyard: Syria Wants Chemical Weapons Destroyed Elsewhere

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Syria wants its poison gas and nerve agent stockpile destroyed outside the country because of its ongoing civil war, the chief of the global chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Tuesday.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu told the group's executive council that Syria's proposal that chemical weapons be destroyed in another country "remains the most viable option."

It is not yet clear where outside Syria the destruction could happen. Norway has turned down a request to have the material destroyed on its territory and no other country has yet been confirmed as a possible host for the risky operation.

Uzumcu says Syria cites "practical challenges" of destroying chemical weapons amid its civil war and "resource limitations" as reasons for shifting the destruction off its soil.

The OPCW's executive council has until Nov. 15 to approve Syria's plan as part of a tight timeline that calls for the total destruction of the country's chemical weapons program and stockpiles by mid-2014. Officials from Syria are visiting the OPCW this week to try to finalize the destruction plan.

Damascus has an estimated 1,000-metric ton stockpile of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals.

Syria joined the OPCW just weeks ago in a move that was seen as heading off possible U.S. military strikes in the aftermath of a deadly Aug. 21 sarin nerve agent attack on an opposition-held Damascus suburb. Washington and U.S. allies accuse the Syrian government of being responsible for the attack, while Damascus blames rebels.

Uzumcu also said Tuesday that Syria has so far destroyed 99 unfilled chemical weapons warheads and work to destroy more unfilled munitions is underway at six other sites in the country.

The OPCW announced last week that Syria had completed the destruction of equipment used to produce chemical weapons, meeting the first key deadline on the path toward total destruction.

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