UN ready to move Syria's chemical weapons for destruction

Photo: UN ready to move Syria's chemical weapons for destruction / Arabic region

International inspectors in Syria will be able to safely transport chemical weapons for their destruction outside the country, the inspector chief said Wednesday, dpa reported.

Sigrid Kaag, who heads a joint team of more than 60 inspectors, told the UN Security Council that the dangerous transport of the chemical through war zones "can be done."

"The Syrian government has invested a lot of time to ensure that the operation will be safe," Kaag told reporters after briefing the council at UN headquarters in New York.

Damascus is responsible for the safety of the inspectors and will choose the ports that will be used when dedicated foreign commercial vessels pick up the large quantity of chemical, estimated at 100 tons, for their destruction, she said.

"If there are delays because of security conditions, we will have to assess and revisit it (the destruction plan)," she said. "But for now, we don't assume any alternatives. This a viable and best assessed option. We just want to make sure that it can happen."

The dangerous task of transporting Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons out of the country for destruction is to begin in January. It will be the final phase of operations for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to eliminate the weapons in Syria.

Kaag said council members additionally wanted to know whether the difficult task could be done on time despite the war conditions.

"Our response is yes, we will do everything we can ... the effort is there and now we have to make sure that we actually can do it," Kaag said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had voiced grave concern in a letter to the council that the inspectors are exposed to dangers as they prepare to move a large quantity of chemical through war zones.

The chemical weapons reportedly are to be shipped to US vessels for destruction.

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