British government says it will help destroy Syria weapons stockpile

Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:23pm GMT

An Albanian soldier stands guard in front of containers, which according to officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Albania, contain newly-repackaged hazardous chemical waste at a military base in Qafe Molle, some 23 km (14 miles) from capital Tirana November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Arben Celi

An Albanian soldier stands guard in front of containers, which according to officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Albania, contain newly-repackaged hazardous chemical waste at a military base in Qafe Molle, some 23 km (14 miles) from capital Tirana November 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Arben Celi

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(Reuters) - Britain has agreed to destroy part of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile at a commercial facility and escort Scandinavian ships transporting the toxic cargo, the British government said on Friday.

Roughly 150 tonnes of industrial chemicals will be transported from Syria by ship to a port in Britain, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad declared 1,300 tonnes of chemical weapons to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel peace prize this year.

Under a tight deadline agreed with the United States and Russia, Damascus has until December 31 to relinquish the most toxic chemicals. Its entire chemical weapons program must be dismantled by mid-2014.

The deal may have averted U.S. missile strikes threatened after hundreds of people were killed in the outskirts of Damsacus on August 21, the worst poison gas attack in a quarter century.

No company was named by the Foreign Office, but Veolia Environment VE, a French-based firm with chemical incineration plants in Britain, has been approached by the British government, sources said.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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