Syrian Chemical Weapons Now in U.S. Hands

July 3, 2014, 8:50 a.m.

A U.S. ship de­par­ted from Italy on Wed­nes­day with hun­dreds of tons of war­fare chem­ic­als sur­rendered by Syr­ia.

A De­fense De­part­ment spokes­man said equip­ment on the MV Cape Ray would “soon” be­gin des­troy­ing the ma­ter­i­als, which a Dan­ish trans­port ship had de­livered from the con­flict-torn coun­try to Italy’s Gioia Tauro sea­port.

The “neut­ral­iz­a­tion” ef­fort would take place in in­ter­na­tion­al wa­ters in the Medi­ter­ranean Sea, and “should take sev­er­al weeks to com­plete,” Rear Adm. John Kirby ad­ded in a state­ment.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to give up its chem­ic­al-weapons stock­pile amid threats of an in­ter­na­tion­al mil­it­ary re­sponse to an Au­gust nerve-agent as­sault on a Dam­as­cus sub­urb. The re­gime turned over the last of its re­por­ted stock­pile last week, clear­ing the way for new steps to des­troy ma­ter­i­als pos­ing the greatest risk.

The world’s chem­ic­al-arms watch­dog agency con­firmed that the Cape Ray had re­ceived 600 met­ric tons of “Pri­or­ity 1” chem­ic­als. Those ma­ter­i­als formed the dead­li­est com­pon­ent of the Syr­i­an ar­sen­al.

The Dan­ish ves­sel Ark Fu­tura “will con­tin­ue on to the United King­dom, where it will of­f­load the rest of Syr­ia’s Pri­or­ity 1 chem­ic­als for de­struc­tion in a com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity at Ellesmere Port. It will then head to Fin­land with some Pri­or­ity 2 chem­ic­als to be des­troyed at a com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity at Rii­hi­maki,” the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons said in a press re­lease. “A second cargo ship, the Nor­we­gi­an ves­sel Taiko, has already de­livered a con­sign­ment of Pri­or­ity 2 chem­ic­als to Fin­land for de­struc­tion at the Rii­hi­maki fa­cil­ity,” the agency said. “The ship is now head­ing to Port Ar­thur, Texas … where the rest of the Pri­or­ity 2 chem­ic­als will be des­troyed at a com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity.”

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