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West to Reject Syrian Request for Chemical-Transfer Gear: Report

A Syrian rebel fighter on Saturday prepares mortar shells at a workshop in the city of Aleppo. On Monday Reuters reported Western countries plan to block a Syrian-government request for technology for transporting chemical-warfare materials to a coastal city (Fouad Hallak/AFP/Getty Images). A Syrian rebel fighter on Saturday prepares mortar shells at a workshop in the city of Aleppo. On Monday Reuters reported Western countries plan to block a Syrian-government request for technology for transporting chemical-warfare materials to a coastal city (Fouad Hallak/AFP/Getty Images).

Western countries plan to block a Syrian-government push to obtain a range of technology for transporting chemical-warfare materials to a coastal city under international plans to eliminate them, Reuters on Monday quoted envoys as saying.

The Western nations reportedly fear Damascus could use the systems -- which include armor-plated automobiles, power generators and communications systems -- to help combat rebel forces in Syria's raging civil war. Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime asked for the items in a "shopping list" sent on Oct. 21 to the Organization for the Prohibition for Chemical Weapons, according to envoys from two Western governments.

The international watchdog agency is helping to oversee a fast-track push to eliminate the government'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 in his country's civil war.

"There is no way that the regime will be supplied with equipment that could be used by the army to kill more innocent Syrians," said one envoy for a nation empowered to prevent consensus on the issue at the 41-nation OPCW Executive Council. "It's not going to happen."

Another Western-nation diplomat said Damascus "will not get [the requested equipment] from us and I don't think the U.N., or EU which has applied sanctions, will do so either."

Assad's government said it would use the requested systems to help transfer 1,300 tons of weapon-usable substances to the coastal city of Latakia. The warfare materials are expected to be transferred by boat to a still-undetermined country for destruction.

One envoy suggested Western countries might be open to providing flatbed vehicles or other alternative support gear to Assad's regime. The diplomat suggested the West could also push for such equipment to be removed from Syria along with the chemicals, eliminating the possibility that the gear could aid the war effort.

NTI Analysis

  • Disarming Syria of Its Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned from Iraq and Libya

    Oct. 31, 2013

    This CNS issue brief examines the lessons learned from dismantling Libya and Iraq's chemical weapons programs and what these two cases presage for disarmament in Syria. In particular, this article explores the challenges relating to ensuring material and physical security for both inspectors and the chemical weapons stockpile itself; verifying the accuracy and completeness of disclosed inventories; and developing effective monitoring and verification regimes for the long-term. The conclusion examines recommendations stemming from this analysis.

  • UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection

    Oct. 21, 2013

    The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.