Norway's top diplomat on Wednesday said his country is "very seriously" reviewing calls to host the elimination of chemical-arms ingredients from war-torn Syria, but suggested legal and technical hurdles could complicate possible assistance, Reuters reported.
Norway lacks experience in destroying such materials, and domestic laws would require other European countries to take final custody of by-products from the process, Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende told reporters. He added it could prove difficult to prevent water from freezing in any destruction effort hosted by the Nordic country.
The United Nations reportedly asked Norway to accept as much as 50 percent of Syria's chemical-warfare stockpile, which totals more than 1,000 tons and contains precursors for deadly nerve and blister agents. Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted possessing the materials and agreed to their elimination last month, weeks after a nerve-gas strike in rebel-held territory pushed the United States to the brink of potential military action against his regime.
The United States could provide chemical-destruction equipment to Norway, which is domestically stable and contains sparsely populated areas suited for destruction activities, according to Reuters. Oslo has not identified any potential domestic location for a possible destruction effort, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The Norwegian broadcaster NRK cited an internal U.N. record naming seven other countries -- Albania, Belgium and the five recognized nuclear powers -- asked to support the chemical-disarmament process, Reuters reported.
Members of the 28-nation NATO alliance likely would "respond positively if the U.N. actually forwards a request," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, according to a Wedneseday report from Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
He added it is "premature" to determine whether countries would act alone or in cooperation to provide support.
Dozens of international personnel have been in Syria for weeks, confirming chemical-arms inventories provided by Assad's regime and overseeing the destruction of empty munitions and mixing equipment. The United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are managing the closely watched disarmament mission, which aims to eliminate the Syrian government's entire chemical arsenal by the first half of next year.
The disarmament crews as of Tuesday had traveled to 18 of 23 chemical-arms sites disclosed to date, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told reporters on Wednesday. Damascus appeared set within one day to file a more complete "initial declaration" of its chemical-warfare inventory, as well as a "general plan of destruction," Luhan added.
Meanwhile, U.N. envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is slated on Nov. 5 to confer with Russian and U.S. delegates in support of a parallel effort to lay the groundwork for possible negotiations on ending Syria's civil war, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The news agency cited an unnamed U.S. government insider who named the date.
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.