Albania Doesn't Want Syria's 1,300 Tons of Chemical Weapons

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The ongoing attempt to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles hit a hurdle today, when Albania dared to refuse to host 1,300 tons of mustard gas and sarin.

Recent Nobel Peace Prize winners the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have been charged with supervising the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, which it has to do outside of Syria due to the country's lack of facilities and also the fact that it's in the middle of a civil war. Albania was apparently its best hope (and, according to Reuters, the United States' only choice) for a location to store and destroy the weapons, but its citizens weren't exactly thrilled with the idea, holding protests outside Prime Minister Edi Rama's office.

They have plenty of reason to be cautious. In 2008, the Associated Press points out, 26 (or 28, according to Reuters) people were killed and 300 were wounded when an ammunition dump exploded.

They also have reason to agree to it: Albania enjoys a close alliance with the United States, which pushed the Balkan country to agree to the proposal, and Rama said earlier in the week that he was in favor of the proposal and the rewards Albania would reap for accepting it.

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But today he changed his mind, announcing "it is impossible for Albania to get involved in this operation" as "we lack the necessary capacities to get involved in this operation."

In 2007, Albania became the first (and still the only) country to destroy all of its chemical weapons, according to the OPCW, so it almost seems unfair to ask it to take on the destruction of someone else's.

It's unknown who will be asked to take the chemical weapons on instead, though senior OPCW official Malik Ellahi told the Associated Press that "there are options and there are ways in which this can be accomplished." The BBC reported that France is a "possible alternative site." Norway's probably off the hook, as it cleverly offered up its ships to transport the weapons to wherever they end up going, thus getting out of being asked to do anything else if the destruction of chemical weapons is anything like asking your friends to help you move.

But it does mean that today's deadline for the OPCW and Syria to agree on a plan to get rid of the weapons has been missed, although the OPCW did adopt a plan for the destruction of those weapons if not a location to do it.

Until now, the efforts to destroy Syria's weapons and weapon-manufacturing abilities had been progressing apace, with the country meeting a November 1 deadline to destroy all of its weapon-making equipment.

Over 120,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.