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Protests grow in Albania against Syria weapons destruction
by Staff Writers
Tirana (AFP) Nov 14, 2013

Norway offers aid in destruction of Syria chem weapons
Oslo (AFP) Nov 14, 2013 - Norway said Thursday it would offer logistical support for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal despite refusing to carry out the operation on its soil as requested by the United States.

Oslo will offer a civilian ship to help transport the weapons to an as yet undecided location, along with a military frigate to escort any future convoy, the country's foreign ministry said.

The Scandinavian country would also promise 90 million krone (10.8 million euros, $15 million) to the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out the operation, the ministry added.

Norway said on October 25 it could not accommodate an American request to help destroy Syria's chemical arsenal on its soil, saying the schedule was too tight and that it lacked the expertise required.

Albania is considering a similar demand, while France and Belgium are also believed to have been asked for possible help by Washington.

The joint Russian-US Syrian chemical weapons disarmament plan was endorsed by the UN Security Council in September.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding the destruction of Syria's entire chemical arsenal, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes, by June 30 next year.

The resolution was a last-minute measure to prevent US air attacks on Syria in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of the weapons against its own people after a chemical attack against a Damascus suburb in August left hundreds dead.

The OPCW, which is currently inspecting chemical weapons' production and storage sites in Syria, is due to adopt a roadmap for their destruction by November 15.

Several hundred people protested on Thursday in the capital Tirana and number of other towns across Albania against the possible destruction of Syrian chemical weaponry on its soil as requested by Washington.

"The parliament will not make any decision that could endanger lives and the well-being of (Albanian) citizens and the country," Ilir Meta, chairman of the assembly, told protestors in front of the parliament building in Tirana.

"Every decision will take into account Albania's future," Meta said, as the crowd shouted "No to chemical weapons".

Albania, along with France, Belgium, have been mooted as possible sites for the dismantling of Syria's entire chemical arsenal, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes.

The Balkan country's right-wing opposition also called on the Albanians to keep up with the protests.

"It is unacceptable for any chemical weapons to be destroyed in Albania," said opposition leader Lulezim Bashac.

He urged the government to call a referendum for the people to decide on the issue.

"We are not going to accept any chemical weapons in Albania, the Prime Minister has humiliated the Albanians," said former prime minister Sali Berisha who joined the protestors with the deputies of his Democratic party.

Berisha claimed that Prime Minister Edi Rama has already decided the Syrian chemical arsenal to be destroyed in Albania.

But Rama said on Wednesday that no such decision have been made yet.

Under a UN Security Council resolution passed in September, Syria's weaponry has to be destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Six years ago, it was confirmed that Albania had destroyed its own stockpile of chemical weapons, a leftover from the communist period.

Norway, another country where it has been suggested the destruction of Syria's weapons could be carried out, has refused to do it.


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