Options Narrowed, U.S. Is Said to Weigh Destroying Syrian Chemicals at Sea
WASHINGTON — Unable to find a country willing to dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons, the United States is considering plans to place the chemical components of the weapons on a barge where they would be dissolved or incinerated, according to senior American officials.
The two systems under review are intended to destroy the precursor materials that are designed to be combined to form chemical munitions. Syria’s smaller arsenal of operational chemical weapons would be destroyed separately, officials said.
Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is operating in Syria to locate and identify the weapons, would monitor the destruction, which would be carried out following safety standards set by legislation in the United States and the European Union, according to officials familiar with the proposal. Officials did not say whether any chemical residue would be dumped in the ocean.
The system could be operational in 75 days.
The seaborne options have received more serious consideration after Albania on Friday turned down an appeal by the United States to destroy the weapons on its territory; the decision followed street protests by thousands of Albanians. Norway rejected an earlier request, saying it did not have the expertise or the facilities to destroy the weapons. The issue caused a major political dispute there as well.
Under one plan, five incinerators operating at temperatures of 2,700 degrees aboard the barge would be able to destroy all of Syria’s most serious precursor materials for chemical weapons in less than 60 days. Officials said the byproducts would be harmless salts and other solids.