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U.K. to Eliminate Nerve-Agent Ingredients From Syria

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, shown in October. The British Foreign Office on Friday announced plans for the United Kingdom to destroy on its soil 150 metric tons of Syrian chemical ingredients usable in nerve agents (Suzanne Plunkett/AFP/Getty Images). British Foreign Secretary William Hague, shown in October. The British Foreign Office on Friday announced plans for the United Kingdom to destroy on its soil 150 metric tons of Syrian chemical ingredients usable in nerve agents (Suzanne Plunkett/AFP/Getty Images).

The United Kingdom on Friday unveiled plans to incinerate on its soil roughly 150 tons of Syrian chemical ingredients for nerve agents.

A privately operated facility in the United Kingdom is set to burn 150 metric tons of the "industrial-grade" materials in coming months, the British Foreign Office said in a statement. A broader international effort seeks to eliminate the entire chemical-warfare stockpile of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who assented to the arsenal's destruction after an August nerve-gas attack raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention against his regime.

"The chemicals will be shipped to a U.K. port [and] will be subject to industry-standard security measures," the Foreign Office stated. In addition, they "will be sealed in standard industrial containers to international standards and [kept] under the supervision" of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

"It is important to stress that these are chemicals, not chemical weapons," the statement says. The ministry noted that the materials only become nerve agent in combination with substances outside the British project's scope.

Meanwhile, Syria's most dangerous chemical stocks are slated for destruction at sea, aboard the U.S. vessel MV Cape Ray. The ship is now fully outfitted with chemical-destruction gear, and is set to undergo sea tests before departing from Virginia as early as Jan. 3, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

The vessel would require roughly 10 days to reach an undisclosed Italian port, where Danish and Norwegian ships are slated to bring the high-priority Syrian chemicals in coming weeks.

Syrian government forces still must transport the sensitive chemicals from several inland points to the port city of Latakia, where they are to be picked up by the foreign cargo vessels. International agencies and foreign governments have been debating how best to keep the chemical assets safe during shipment through the war-torn nation.

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