Albania announced on Friday it would not allow Syria’s chemical weapons to be destroyed on its soil, dealing a setback to the disarmament effort the same day an international body weighed a destruction plan for the munitions, Reuters reported.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a televised address that he denied the U.S. request to host destruction of the Syrian arms, which angry protesters decried in recent days in his country’s capital.
“We lack the necessary capacities to get involved in this operation,” said Rama, who assumed his post two months ago.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Executive Council had planned to approve on Friday a chemical-weapons destruction plan crafted by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. However, the 41-member council adjourned its meeting in The Hague during the day as it waited to hear whether Albanian would host the destruction work. As of press time, the chemical-weapons council still was expected to make a decision later in the day.
An OPCW source told Reuters on Friday that there “will be no host country in the decision this afternoon.”
Assad agreed in September to eliminate his roughly 1,300 metric tons of sarin nerve agent and mustard gas following international condemnation of an Aug. 21 chemical-arms attack on citizens during the nation’s bloody civil war.
The OPCW Executive Council reportedly was reviewing a draft destruction plan on Friday that calls for most chemical materials to be extracted from Syria by the end of the year and destroyed elsewhere.
Albania joins Norway in denying requests to become the site of destruction activities. Belgium and France also have been cited as possible hosts.
Nations are helping the OPCW-U.N. chemical-weapons effort in varied ways. Norway on Thursday said it would send troops and ships to Syria, despite rejecting the role of host for the chemical stocks. Denmark and Russia have considered offering similar assistance. Countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland also have contributed money for the disarmament work, which Assad said could cost $1 billion.