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Syrian Chemical Delivery Leaves for U.S., Finland

International monitors said a Norwegian cargo ship is on its way to Finland and the United States with Syrian chemical arms slated for destruction.

The transport vessel MV Taiko on Friday embarked on a shipping route for transferring its share of Syrian President Bashar Assad's declared chemical-warfare stockpile to the two countries, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a Friday statement. Assad's government agreed to give up the materials last year, amid international military threats over a nerve-agent attack estimated by Washington to have killed more than 1,400 people.

Assad's regime has given other nations custody of all but 7.2 percent of its reported chemical stocks, according to earlier reporting. The final material was locked in place by fighting with opposition groups on the Syrian capital's outskirts.

"We remain focused on removing the last consignment of chemicals from Syrian territory and urge the Syrian authorities to complete the removal as soon as possible," OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said in released comments.

Another vessel -- the Danish ship MV Ark Futura -- will assume responsibility for removing the final materials, according to the global chemical-weapons watchdog agency. That ship has been making periodic trips to Syria's Latakia seaport to retrieve arsenal components deemed by international authorities to be the deadliest. The vessel is expected to ultimately carry Syria's "Priority 1" agents to the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro, where they would be transferred onto a U.S. vessel equipped to destroy them.

Norway's foreign ministry on Sunday said efforts to complete the loading process were still under way, according to Turkey's Anadolu Agency. Foreign Minister Borge Brende issued a written statement pressing for the disarmament operation to be expedited.

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