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Global Security Newswire

Europeans Nervous About Syria Chemical-Destruction Safety

January 23, 2014

Greece wants absolute guarantees that destroying Syria's warfare chemicals would not endanger the Mediterranean, the Xinhua News Agency reports.

Athens is not alone in its nervousness about the plan for eliminating Damascus chemicals; British citizens also are beginning to voice safety concerns related to their nation's involvement in the process.

Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos asked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to demand the guarantees from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The two organizations are overseeing efforts to eliminate the Syrian government's chemical-warfare stockpile by the end of June.

 

Emma Bonino, Evangelos' Italian equivalent, "agreed on the sending of a letter to the director of the OPCW," the Greek Foreign Ministry added in a statement on Wednesday.

The Syrian chemical arsenal's deadliest components are being transported through the violence-wracked nation to coastal city of Latakia, where they are to be loaded on Danish and Norwegian transport ships. The chemicals then would travel under international escort to an Italian port, where they would enter the custody of a U.S. vessel equipped to destroy them.

Greece is seeking confirmation that there is "no doubt ... as to the security and protection of the Mediterranean environment during the process of the transporting and destruction of Syrian chemical weapons," the Greek Foreign Ministry said.

In earlier discussions with Greenpeace, Oceanica and the World Wildlife Fund, OCPW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü asserted that the destruction effort would not drop any byproducts into the Mediterranean Sea. Representatives of the watchdog groups conveyed that promise to Venizelos on Wednesday, according to the ministry statement.

Meanwhile, petitioners in the United Kingdom have gathered nearly 400 signatures in opposition to the planned elimination of less-dangerous Syrian chemical-arms ingredients at Ellesmere Port, the Liverpool Echo reported.

The president of Syria, Bashar Assad, admitted his government's possession of chemical weapons and agreed to eliminate them after Damascus was blamed for a nerve-gas strike allegedly resulting in more than 1,400 civilian deaths last August.

This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

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