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Ships ready for Syria chemical weapons pickup

Denmark and Norway plan to use two cargo vessels to transport some of the stockpile out of Syria's port city of Latakia

Published: Updated:

A Danish-led task force was being readied in Cyprus on Saturday to remove the first part of Syria's deadly chemical stockpile, due before the end of this year.

Denmark and Norway plan to use two cargo vessels to transport the weapons out of the Syrian port city of Latakia, escorted by two frigates of their respective fleets, and deliver it to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for destruction.

The deadliest chemicals in Syria's stockpile are due to be shipped out of the country by the end of the year under an agreement between Damascus and the OPCW, although the ongoing conflict has complicated efforts to meet the deadline.

“The timing is another matter and it is related to a lot of other uncertainties right now but we are preparing to be ready as fast as possible,” said Commodore Torben Mikkelsen of Denmark, commander of the combined task force, according to Reuters.

The exact quantity of chemicals to be taken out of Syria is unknown, a Danish chemical expert told the Associated Press.

Bjoern Schmidt said sealed containers full of chemical compounds, which when mixed can create lethal Sarin and VX gases, will be loaded at opposite ends of the two cargo ships.

The OPCW was given the task of overseeing destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stocks following a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus which killed hundreds of people last August.

In total, 1,290 tons of chemical weapons and materials are to be destroyed.

A team of U.N. and OPCW inspectors has been on the ground since October, inspecting Syria’s weapons and facilities.

(With Reuters and the Associated Press)