Albania refuses to host destruction of Syrian chemical weapons

Watchdog misses timetable deadline, France now suggested as alternative host

A  protest against the potential dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the parliament in Tirana on Thursday. Photograph: Arben Celi/Reuters

A protest against the potential dismantling of Syrian chemical weapons in Albania in front of the parliament in Tirana on Thursday. Photograph: Arben Celi/Reuters


The global chemical weapons watchdog failed to meet yesterday’s deadline for finalisation of a plan for the destruction of Syria’s arsenal after Albania, which recently eliminated its stockpile, refused to host the process. France has been suggested as an alternative.

Damascus and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have fixed a timetable for the destruction of 1,290 tonnes of chemicals and 1,230 unfilled munitions, under a deal brokered by the United States and Russia.

Materials for packaging and moving the chemicals will be sent to 12 storage sites by December 13th, transported to the port of Latakia and shipped out by February 5th. Norway and Denmark have offered ships.

Syria has requested armoured vehicles and electronic countermeasures to ensure safe movement of the materials but western powers have refused to supply them, fearing their capture by fundamentalist jihadis. Syria’s ally Russia may have to step in.

While December 12th has been mooted for the convening of the proposed peace conference in Geneva there has been no confirmation by the organisers – the US, United Nations and Russia.

After Syrian president Bashar al-Assad consulted Russian president Vladimir Putin, Moscow announced that a high-level Syrian team is due there on Monday to discuss details.

Both have agreed to attend but the government insists Dr Assad’s departure is not an option and the western and Arab-backed opposition National Coalition has demanded his removal.

Turkey has warned against a declaration of autonomy by Syrian Kurds affiliated with Turkish brethren seeking self-rule.

“We cannot allow Syria, which faces major chaos, to disintegrate,” President Abdullah Gul said. Syrian Kurdish fighters have driven al-Qaeda loyalists from Kurdish majority areas in the northeast.

Air raid
In Syria, commander Youssef al-Abbas of the Qatari-supported fundamentalist Tawhid Brigades, the main armed group in Aleppo, was killed in a government air raid on a military base held by opposition forces. Tawhid chief Abdel Qader Saleh and a second commander were wounded and taken to Turkey for treatment.

The Tawhid and other groups have called for reinforcements to defend opposition-held areas in and around Aleppo from an army offensive bolstered by fighters from Lebanon’s Hizbullah following the fall of rebel-held pockets along the main Damascus-Aleppo highway and a military base near the city’s international airport.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has pledged to continue backing the Syrian government which “supports the resistance” against Israel.

The army has also recaptured most of the capital’s suburbs from opposition units that have retaliated with random mortar fire on central Damascus, killing nine school children and a dozen adults.

Al-Qaeda-connected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has, after a video was posted on the internet showing two members of the Islamic State displaying a man’s head to a crowd in Aleppo, admitted it mistakenly beheaded a fighter from an allied group.

The man, identified as Mohamed Marroush, a member of local rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, was believed to be a foreign pro-government Shia fighter and taken from his hospital bed to be executed.