Denmark Offers to Help Dismantle Syrian Chemical Arsenal

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 24, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Den­mark has joined Nor­way in of­fer­ing to help des­troy hun­dreds of tons of chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als amassed by Syr­ia’s em­battled gov­ern­ment, U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon told re­port­ers on Wed­nes­day.

“I was told by Prime Min­is­ter [Helle] Thorn­ing-Schmidt yes­ter­day that the Dan­ish gov­ern­ment would … be ready to provide their full sup­port, whatever it may be,” the U.N. chief said at a news con­fer­ence in Copen­ha­gen.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad ad­mit­ted his forces pos­sess chem­ic­al weapons and agreed to their de­struc­tion in Septem­ber, after a nerve-gas at­tack weeks earli­er raised the pos­sib­il­ity of U.S. mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in his coun­try’s civil war. The lead­er agreed to the chem­ic­al ar­sen­al’s elim­in­a­tion, prompt­ing a fast-track dis­arm­a­ment push over­seen by United Na­tions and the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons.

The chem­ic­al-weapons watch­dog on Wed­nes­day said dis­arm­a­ment work­ers ap­peared set to meet a Nov. 1 dead­line for des­troy­ing the As­sad re­gime’s tech­no­logy for pro­du­cing, mix­ing and load­ing chem­ic­al arms.

“What it means is that [Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment] will no longer have the cap­ab­il­ity to pro­duce any more chem­ic­al weapons, and it will no longer have any work­ing equip­ment to mix and to fill chem­ic­al weapons agent in­to mu­ni­tions,” OP­CW spokes­man Mi­chael Luhan told re­port­ers.

The U.N. chief said des­troy­ing the war­fare chem­ic­als them­selves “will be the most chal­len­ging phase” when it be­gins at the start of next month.

Ban voiced ap­pre­ci­ation for “very pos­it­ive sup­port” com­ing from a num­ber of gov­ern­ments, but he de­clined to name which ad­di­tion­al coun­tries have offered as­sist­ance.

“Our joint [dis­arm­a­ment] mis­sion led by Sigrid Kaag will be in close con­sulta­tions with mem­ber states un­der the dir­ec­tion [and] guid­ance from my­self” and OP­CW Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Ah­met Üzüm­cü, he said.

Wheth­er NATO mem­ber na­tions would of­fer dis­arm­a­ment as­sist­ance was a closely watched ques­tion on Wed­nes­day, when the 28-na­tion al­li­ance wrapped up a meet­ing of its de­fense lead­ers and a sep­ar­ate gath­er­ing with Rus­si­an del­eg­ates.

NATO Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al An­ders Fogh Rasmussen told journ­al­ists he ex­pects Mo­scow and al­li­ance mem­bers “would stand ready to as­sist the U.N. and OP­CW if re­ques­ted.”

He ad­ded, though, that par­ti­cipants in Wed­nes­day’s NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil meet­ing did not con­fer on “con­crete ac­tion” to sup­port the chem­ic­al stock­pile’s de­struc­tion.

Speak­ing sep­ar­ately at the end of the two-day NATO De­fense Min­is­teri­al, U.S. De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said “it may well be that NATO will be asked for some as­sist­ance.”

No plans are in place for “U.S. forces” to sup­port the dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion in any man­ner, he ad­ded at a press con­fer­ence.

Mean­while, U.S. Am­bas­sad­or to Syr­ia Robert Ford was con­fer­ring on Wed­nes­day with Syr­i­an rebel forces “on the ground,” State De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Mar­ie Harf said in a news brief­ing.

In­ter­na­tion­al ef­forts to con­vene a peace meet­ing in Geneva ap­peared to en­counter an road­b­lock on Tues­day, when Syr­ia’s primary West­ern-backed op­pos­i­tion group this week ruled out par­ti­cip­at­ing in any peace meet­ing that does not seek As­sad’s re­mov­al from power. Earli­er this week, the Syr­i­an pres­id­ent in­dic­ated he was in­tent on stay­ing in of­fice.

“We’re go­ing to keep in­creas­ing our as­sist­ance and our aid to the folks on the ground and hope­fully get every­body even­tu­ally to a Geneva 2 con­fer­ence,” Harf said. “Chan­ging the bal­ance of power on the ground is … a means, not an end.”

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