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Syria Chemical Arms to Be Removed by February

Syrian Rebel Fighter
A rebel fighter monitors the surrounding area during clashes with government forces in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. Photographer: Ahmad Aboud/AFP via Getty Images

Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal will be removed from the country by February under a plan approved today by United Nations-authorized inspectors.

The “most critical” chemicals will be taken out of Syria by the end of this year, and all others except isopropanol by Feb. 5, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in The Hague, said on its website. “Sequenced destruction” will start on Dec. 15, “priority weapons” will be destroyed by the end of March and the whole arsenal by the end of June, it said.

The OPCW didn’t say where the weapons will be destroyed. Earlier today, the government of Albania delivered a setback to the plan, rejecting a U.S. request to host facilities for the operation.

Syria agreed to surrender its weapons of mass destruction following a Russian-U.S. pact in September that was subsequently endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. That forestalled President Barack Obama’s plan to use armed force to punish Assad’s government for its alleged use of sarin gas near Damascus in August. Syrian opposition groups, who have been fighting to unseat Assad for 2 1/2 years, say the attack killed more than 1,400 people.

The OPCW said its inspectors have already been able to verify the destruction of more than 60 percent of Syria’s declared unfilled munitions.

The chemicals will have to be removed from a war zone, something the inspectors have not tried before. In addition, no country has publicly agreed to take the materials for destruction.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama today refused to allow the destruction of the weapons in his country following days of protests in the capital, Tirana, the BBC reported. France and Belgium have been named as possible locations, it said.

Norway this week agreed to provide a merchant ship and an escorting warship to transport the material, the Foreign Ministry said.

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