Norway ‘Seriously’ Mulls Hosting Destruction of Syrian Warfare Chemicals

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 23, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

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.

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