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Italian port for Syrian arms transfer to be named Thursday

Local resistance risks delaying destruction

13 January, 14:08
Italian port for Syrian arms transfer to be named Thursday (ANSA) - Rome, January 13 - Speculation on which Italian port will be used to transfer Syrian chemical weapons aboard a US ship that will destroy them in international waters will cease on January 16, when the choice will be announced after the Italian parliament hears the director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the government has announced. The ports of Brindisi, Taranto, Augusta, Gioia Tauro and Cagliari are the possibilities cited by the media in the past few days amid some local opposition.

Meanwhile transferring the chemical weapons is proceeding as scheduled. There are still four days ahead, as announced by Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino from Paris over the weekend, where she attended a meeting of the Friends of Syria Group. Bonino explained from Paris that the choice of an Italian port will be based on technical requirements "which were requested and which the infrastructure minister is evaluating". The message was addressed to those who criticized Italy's decision to attend the 'Geneva 2' peace conference scheduled on January 22 in Montreux. It was also aimed at stressing once more the Italian government's determination in pushing forward and playing its part. On Thursday the director-general of the Hague-based OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, will meet Bonino and then go to parliament to explain to the foreign and defence committees of the Lower House and Senate the phases concerning the transfer of chemical agents from a Danish or Norwegian cargo vessel to a US ship, the MV Cape Ray. The operation should take place at the end of the month and will be attended by OPCW inspectors who will examine the material once it has boarded the US ship. Meanwhile Italian local administrations are continuing to refuse to host the cargo ship, drawing the attention of international media.

The Wall Street Journal warned over the weekend that "plans to use an Italian port as part of a process to destroy Syrian chemical weapons have stumbled over local opposition, raising the risk of delaying the US-Russia sponsored project to eradicate a trove that includes mustard gas and components of sarin gas".

In particular, the US daily spoke about Brindisi's refusal and the letter of Sardinia Governor Ugo Cappellacci to Premier Enrico Letta announcing he was rejecting Cagliari's candidature "with rage and shock" and would fight it in any way possible. So far Bonino's reassurances that the chemical weapons "will not touch Italian soil" have not eased concern.