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Italy Boosts Security for Syrian Chemical Handover

A local resident stands on a beach in February near the Italian port of Gioia Tauro. Authorities are bolstering protective measures around the city before a scheduled transfer of Syrian chemical arms begins on Wednesday. A local resident stands on a beach in February near the Italian port of Gioia Tauro. Authorities are bolstering protective measures around the city before a scheduled transfer of Syrian chemical arms begins on Wednesday. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy is boosting protections at a seaport due to host a closely watched handover of Syria's most dangerous warfare chemicals, Agence France-Presse reports.

Authorities conferred on Saturday about plans to implement a series of additional protective measures at Gioia Tauro, including an aircraft ban, special barricades, roadway security stops and at-sea monitoring locations. The port is scheduled to accommodate the Danish cargo vessel Ark Futura on Wednesday, as it offloads hundreds of tons of Syrian-origin warfare agents slated for destruction onboard a waiting U.S. ship.

The handover to the U.S. vessel MV Cape Ray "will take a maximum of 48 hours and may be done within a day," said Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, Netherlands. The watchdog agency has overseen a global chemical-disarmament initiative launched in Syria last year, after President Bashar Assad's regime agreed to surrender its chemical arsenal amid threats of an international military response to an August nerve-agent assault.

Port officials "have the equipment that they need," Luhan said. "That is why we chose Gioia Tauro as it deals with this type of cargo all the time."

The city is due on Tuesday to open a command center staffed by regional government figures, emergency-response personnel and navy officials. An aircraft ban is expected to extend for three-fifths of a mile around the area.

According to the global chemical-arms watchdog, the Cape Ray would need "up to 60 days" in international waters to eliminate its charge of Syria's warfare chemicals. Less dangerous portions of the stockpile are slated for destruction in Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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