Chemical cache heads to Italy

The southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro has stepped up security measures ahead of the final transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal in the coming week.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), charged with extracting and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, confirmed to AFP the final transfer of banned material from the Danish vessel Ark Futura to US ship Cape Ray would take place on July 2.

Some of the stockpile will be transported for destruction at sea, while other weapons are due to be destroyed in the US, Britain and Finland.

Final security measures were discussed in Italy on Saturday, with additional barriers and checkpoints to be installed and maritime surveillance to be increased around the port.

A control room housing local officials, firefighters, police and navy officers will begin operating on July 1 ahead of the Ark Futura’s arrival.

A one kilometre no-fly zone will be put in place between July 1 and 3.

“The transfer will take a maximum of 48 hours and may be done within a day,” said OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan.

“They have the equipment that they need, that is why we chose Gioia Tauro as it deals with this type of cargo all the time,” he said.

The chemicals will be transported aboard the Cape Ray into international waters and destroyed in a process the OPCW says will take “up to 60 days”.

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