Albania refuses to take chemical arms

| Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 8:12 p.m.

TIRANA, Albania — The mission to destroy Syria's poison gas stockpile was dealt a serious blow on Friday when Albania refused to host the destruction, but the global chemical weapons watchdog said it is confident it can eradicate the arsenal outside Syria by the middle of next year.

The surprise refusal by the small and impoverished Balkan country left open the question of where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would send Syria's estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and sarin.

“I can't name a country at this point, but obviously there are options and there are ways in which this can be accomplished,” senior OPCW official Malik Ellahi said at the organization's headquarters at The Hague, Netherlands.

Syria has said it wants the weapons destroyed outside the country.

Albania had been considered the strongest hope, and few diplomats expected the NATO country of 2.8 million people to reject what Prime Minister Edi Rama said had been a direct request from the United States.

But the plan was unpopular in Albania, and young protesters had camped outside Rama's office to oppose it, fearing it would be a health and environmental hazard.

Chemical weapons have to be incinerated at extremely high temperatures.

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