Conflict & Justice

Albania refuses request to destroy Syria's chemical weapons on its soil


Albanians take part in celebrations on the main square of Tirana, marking the 100th anniversary of independence from the Ottoman Empire on November 28, 2012. 'November 28 is a day of celebration for all the Albanians wherever they are as this is the day of independence, marking the sacrifices and also the dreams of better future,' Albanian president Bujar Nishani told the joyful crowd waving the state flags, red with black eagle.



Albania rejected a request from the United States on Friday to allow experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile in the Balkan nation.

There are an estimated 1,000-metric tons of chemical weapons that need to be destroyed, including mustard gas and the lethal nerve agent sarin.

Prime Minister Edi Rama announced on television that it was "impossible for Albania to take part in this operation."

Some 2,000 protesters demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office for the past two days to show their opposition to the plan.

"We don't have the infrastructure here to deal with the chemical weapons. We can't deal with our own stuff, let alone Syrian weapons," 19-year-old architecture student Maria Pesha told the Associated Press. "We have no duty to obey anyone on this, NATO or the US."

More from GlobalPost: Washington asks Albania to help destroy Syrian chemical weapons

Syria has allowed weapons experts to destroy or "render inoperable" all its chemical weapon production facilities, but requested that its existing stockpile be dismantled outside Syria.

Norway's foreign minister said Thursday that Norway was willing to take on the risk of transporting Syria’s stockpiles to the destruction site on one of its civilian cargo ships and a Navy frigate.

Albania had seemed a good choice for the operation since it is one of only three countries that have declared a chemical weapons stockpile to the OPCW and destroyed it. The US and Russia have also declared chemical weapons stockpiles, but have not completely dismantled them.

The BBC's Arab affairs reporter, Sebastian Usher, noted that the deadline for delivering a detailed plan for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons is Friday, so the OPCW needs to come up with a Plan B quickly.