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Syrian Chemical Arms Might Be Destroyed Aboard Ships

Activists rally last week outside the Albanian Embassy in Macedonia, before Albania rejected a U.S. request to host destruction of the Syrian government's chemical-warfare stockpile.  U.S. and international officials are examining the possibility of destroying the materials after hitting obstacles in a search for a country to host the process on its soil (Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images). Activists rally last week outside the Albanian Embassy in Macedonia, before Albania rejected a U.S. request to host destruction of the Syrian government's chemical-warfare stockpile. U.S. and international officials are examining the possibility of destroying the materials after hitting obstacles in a search for a country to host the process on its soil (Robert Atanasovski/AFP/Getty Images).

The world's chemical-arms watchdog on Wednesday said it would be "feasible" to eliminate Syria's chemical-warfare stockpile on an ocean-based platform or vessel, the Associated Press reported.

"All options are on the table," said Christian Chartier, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The statement came after Albania, Belgium and Norway ruled out hosting destruction of the materials, which the Syrian government two months ago admitted possessing and agreed to relinquish.

In the United States, officials are considering either burning the materials in five ship-based incinerators or chemically neutralizing them at sea with transportable disposal equipment, the New York Times reported, quoting high-level government insiders. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry obliquely referenced the two alternatives on Monday, Obama administration sources told the newspaper.

One insider, though, said the United States is still seeking a nation to take custody of 1,000 tons of chemical-warfare materials stockpiled by the Syrian government. Assad's regime agreed to their destruction after an August nerve-gas attack raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention in his country's civil war.

It remained uncertain what authority would assume the possible task of destroying the arms on the high seas, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. Any such effort would take place under OPCW oversight, the Times reported.

Questions also linger over the potential environmental implications of an at-sea disposal effort. Officials were cited as saying that the possible approach would fall in line with U.S. and European Union safety rules, but it was unclear if incinerated or chemically neutralized warfare materials could be dropped in the ocean.

Destroying chemical arms over the ocean "can be done," and the United States and Japan have each undertaken such efforts in the past, former OPCW official Ralf Trapp told Reuters for a Tuesday report.

Eliminating the Syrian stockpile by similar means would create "many technical and legal challenges," Trapp said. "But it may be an alternative worthwhile considering."

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