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Albania Rejects U.S. Request To Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons


Albanian activists celebrate in Tirana's main square on November 15 at the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama that he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical-weapons stockpile.
Albania has rejected a U.S. request to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons on its soil.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, at a news conference on November 15, called participation to that extent "impossible."

"With complete loyalty to Albania, and the great respect for our important friends and partners, my decision is that it is impossible for Albania to be included in this operation," Rama said.

Rama added that Albania lacked the "capacity" to carry out such a task.

But reports of a deal had sparked an outcry among Albanians, with thousands of people in the past week demonstrating against such an operation.

Albania, France, and Belgium were reportedly being considered as possible sites for the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal.

Albania is a NATO member and a staunch U.S. ally.

In Tirana, several thousand people took to the streets on November 15 to await the government's decision.

Rama's announcement, broadcast live on giant television screens on Tirana's main square, was greeted by a loud cheer from the crowd.

"We appreciate Albania considering, looking seriously at hosting the destruction of chemical weapons," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in response to Tirana's announcement.

"The international community continues to discuss the most effective and expeditious manner for eliminating Syria's chemical weapons. There are obviously a range of countries that the international community led by the UN and the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] are talking to," she added.

"We think every country should make the decision about how they can best help and assist. I spoke with [U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation] Tom Countryman's team before I came down here. They feel confident that the timelines will hold."

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Syria has an estimated 1,000-ton chemical arsenal.

The OPCW met in The Hague on November 15 and formally adopted a plan to destroy Syria's stockpiles, but did not say where the deadly arsenal would go.

In a statement, the OPCW, said the "most critical" chemicals will be removed by December 31, and all other declared chemical substances by February 5, except for isopropanol -- one of two key ingredients for the nerve agent, sarin.

Environmental activists protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana on November 12.
Environmental activists protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana on November 12.

In September, Syria agreed to destroy its entire chemical-weapons stockpile in a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the deal after the United States threatened military strikes in the wake of a sarin-gas attack that killed hundreds of people near Damascus in August.

Under a UN Security Council resolution, Syria's chemical weapons have to be destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Albania eliminated its own communist-era chemical weapons arsenal in 2007 with U.S. technical and financial assistance.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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