US offers to dispose of Syria's chemical arms


A picture shows destruction in the Al-Sukkari district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 5, 2013.



The US government has said it is willing to dispose of and destroy Syria's chemical arms, according to a statement from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an international chemical watchdog group.

"The US has offered to contribute a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize Syria’s priority chemicals, which are to be removed from the country by Dec. 31," the statement said.

The news comes as 35 commercial companies have offered to assist in the destruction of the Syria's chemical arms, which may equal about 800 tons. These groups will be vetted by the OPCW, which says it “is at the preliminary stage of ascertaining the availability of suitable candidate companies.”

If the US is chosen to destroy the weapons, the OPCW says the operation will happen on a sea vessel using hydrolysis. Technically called a mobile Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, the process would use heated water and chemicals to make the chemical arms useless.

The OPCW, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month, has been given the difficult task of coordinating the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. The agreement was reached after the US threatened to attack Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of a sarin gas attack inside the country.

"We are working to make sure we can meet all the deadlines," said Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint UN-OPCW Syria team, on Saturday, adding that the chemicals would be sent to the Mediterranean port of Latakia.

"Then it will be transported to other ships by other member states that will send it to, in principle, a US vessel," she said. "It will not be [destroyed] in Syrian territorial waters."