Italy said one of its seaports would host the transfer of Syrian chemical-warfare assets onto a U.S. vessel equipped to destroy the materials, Reuters reports.
The substances would not cross through Italian territory during their move from Danish and Norwegian transport vessels to the U.S. ship, an Italian Foreign Ministry staffer said. The staffer did not specify which of its seaports would facilitate the operation.
The insider said Italy is not currently ready to play any additional part in an international effort to eliminate Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal. Assad admitted possessing chemical weapons and agreed to their destruction in September, after a nerve-gas attack weeks earlier raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention against his regime.
Assad loyalists are slated in coming weeks to deliver the country's most hazardous chemical-weapon materials across the war-torn country to the coastal city of Latakia, where they would be picked up by two transport vessels with a combined cargo capacity of 500 tons, the Associated Press reported. Upon arrival at the Syrian port, containers would be reviewed and sealed by Assad personnel and delegates of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Each container would receive a tracking device, and crew members would count the packages as they make their way onto vessels, said Commodore Torben Mikkelsen, head of the Danish-Norwegian transfer effort. Personnel would place the constituent ingredients for sarin and VX nerve agent as far from one another as possible.
The two transport ships -- possibly the the MV Taiko and the Danish cargo ship Ark Futura -- would travel under protection from the Norwegian warship HNOMS Helge Ingstad and the Danish vessel HDMS Esbern Snare, AP reported. The ships could make return trips to Syria to finish removing chemical stocks, said Henrik Holck Rasmussen, commander of the Esbern Snare.