Chemical weapons destruction plan without host country as Albania rejects request to destroy Syrian arsenal

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Albania announced on Friday night that it had rejected a U.S. request to host the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. This is seen as a major blow to a U.S.-Russian agreement to destroy Syria’s nerve gas arsenal by June 2014. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it’s still confident it can eradicate the chemicals by mid-next year.

Malik Ellahi, a senior OPCW official, was asked how this would be accomplished.

“Let us look at it this way; the dates, the target dates have been set with the confidence that there will be alternatives available for destruction,” he said.

Albania’s refusal marked an unprecedented break from its traditionally staunch allegiance to NATO ally Washington and may make it hard to meet destruction deadlines. It followed a storm of protest in the Adriatic republic, where protesters complained of exploitation.

Crowds gathered outside parliament celebrated well into the early hours of Saturday morning after Albanian prime minister announced his refusal to allow the weapons to be destroyed in Albania.

The small Balkan state is one of only three nations worldwide that’s declared a chemical weapons stockpile to the OPCW and destroyed it.

There was no immediate indication where the United States or Russia might look next to dispose of thousands of tonnes of toxic waste. One source briefed on the discussions said Washington had bet on Albanian cooperation.

Faced with the threat of U.S. missile strikes, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September agreed to destroy the entire chemical weapons stockpile following a sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of people in Damascus on August 21.

Washington said only Assad’s forces could have carried out the attack, a charge the Syrian leader denied.

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