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U.S. Offers To Destroy Some Of Syria's Chemical Weapons

The United States has offered to destroy some of Syria's chemical weapons, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement on Friday.

The U.S. plans to destroy the chemicals aboard a U.S. vessel at sea using a process called hydrolysis, in which chemical agents are neutralized using hot water plus other chemicals.

"Currently a suitable naval vessel is undergoing modifications to support the operations and to accommodate verification activities by the OPCW," the organization responsible for overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons said.

The AP has a bit more detail on the logistics of the operation:

"Separately, the woman appointed as go-between for the United Nations and the OPCW on destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile laid out some logistical details. Importantly, the weapons will first be packaged and transported from multiple sites within Syria to the country's largest port, Latakia. Then they will be loaded onto ships owned by other OPCW members before a second hand-off to U.S. vessels.

"The weapons and chemicals 'will not be (destroyed) in Syrian territorial waters,' Sigrid Kaag said at a news conference in Damascus.

"The OPCW also wants nearly 800 tons of dual-use chemicals, many of which are common industrial chemicals, to be removed by Feb. 5 and later destroyed by private companies as part of the organization's ambitious plan to completely eradicate Syria's chemical weapons program by mid-2014."

Reuters reminds us that the OPCW had a goal of shipping out most of Syria's chemical stockpile by the end of the year. It might still meet that deadline despite the tough conditions caused by a civil war that has killed 100,000 people.

The OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in October, also said that it was in the process of evaluating proposals from 35 private companies interested in contracts to destroy the weapons. The organization said it will need money to issue out contracts, so it is asking the international community for contributions to its trust fund.

Update at 2:33 p.m. ET. Cape Ray designated

NPR's Tom Bowman reports that a Defense official tells him a U.S. Government Ship called the Cape Ray will be used to destroy the weapons.

"It will be supplied with state of the art U.S. Military equipment designed to destroy chemical weapons," Tom tells us.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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