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Non-U.S. Government Sources
Features news, articles, think-pieces and documents of relevance to the CWC or the BWC produced by non-government sources. Such sources include foreign government statements, news media, academic institutions, non-profit organizations and other institutions.
Third Chemical-Arms Shipment Leaves Syria
Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire, 10 February 2014; www.nti.org/gsn
A transport ship on Monday [February 10] removed a third chemical-arms cache from Syria as part of a global effort to destroy the ruling regime's chemical arsenal.
The extraction of the chemicals by a Norwegian cargo ship took place days after the U.N. Security Council formally pressed Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to accelerate transfers of its chemical-warfare stocks onto foreign freighters, which were initially scheduled to finish removing the bulk of the materials by last week.
"A significant effort is needed to ensure the chemicals that still remain in Syria are removed - in accordance with a concrete schedule and without further delays," Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in prepared comments.
Less than 5 percent of Syria's chemical arsenal reportedly had been removed from the country prior to Monday's shipment. No details on the size of the latest delivery are included in a statement released on Monday by Üzümcü's agency and the United Nations.
The organizations confirmed, though, that Assad's government has proceeded to destroy "some chemical materials" within Syrian borders. They did not specify the type or quantity of chemical assets targeted for domestic elimination.
Damascus has attempted to justify delays in handing over the deadliest portions of its chemical arsenal by citing complications in moving the materials across the violence-racked nation, from inland storage facilities to the country's Latakia seaport. However, the basis for that argument has faced pointed criticism from international overseers, who said Assad's government holds the equipment it needs to ensure the safety of overland chemical shipments.
Russia, a key ally of the Syrian government, has backed the regime's defense of its slow progress in turning over the chemical stocks. Last week, though, Moscow said Damascus intended to hand over a significant portion of the remaining materials by March 1.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week joined Russian diplomats in offering assurances that an end-of-June deadline is still within reach for the stockpile's full destruction. The international push to rid Damascus of its chemical arsenal began weeks after a release of sarin nerve agent took place last August in a Damascus suburb, allegedly killing more than 1,400 people. Assad's government denied responsibility for the strike, but it admitted possessing chemical arms and agreed to cooperate in their elimination.
Syria Misses Chemical Weapons Handover Deadline
Foreign Policy Morning Brief, 06 February 2014; www.ForeignPolicy.com
Syria on Wednesday missed the February 5 deadline to surrender its entire chemical arsenal, putting at risk the international agreement brokered last September to avert a U.S. strike.
So far, Bashar al-Assad's government has shipped less than 5 percent of its declared chemical weapons stockpile out of the northern port of Latakia. There have been no shipments since January 27.
Despite the lack of progress, both the White House and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed confidence that Assad would meet the June 30 deadline to eliminate its entire chemical weapons program.
"I would note that Russia has said it expects the Assad regime to deliver a substantial portion of its chemical weapons stockpile in the relatively near future. And we obviously believe that's very important," said White House spokesman Jay Carney, who added that he is "absolutely not" concerned that the deal was falling apart.
Speaking on Thursday, Ban characterized the process as "moving on rather smoothly even though there have been some delays." He said the June 30 deadline may be tight, "but I believe that it can be done with the full support of the Syrian government."
Libya Destroys All "Category 1" Chemical Weapons
BBC News, 04 February 2014; www.bbc.co.uk
Libya has destroyed all its chemical arsenal, the country's foreign minister has announced. Mohamed Abdelaziz said that this included bombs and artillery shells filled with mustard gas.
In 2004, Libya said it had 25 tonnes of sulphur mustard and several thousand unfilled aerial bombs for use with chemical warfare facilities. Tripoli has committed itself to getting rid of all its chemical arms by signing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
"Libya has become totally free of usable chemical weapons that might present a potential threat to the security of local communities, the environment and neighboring areas," Mr. Abdelaziz said on Tuesday in the capital Tripoli. He added that this "would not have been possible in such a short time" without international support, including technical assistance from Canada, Germany and the United States.
Libya's foreign minister said the process was completed on January 26, 2014. Mr. Abdelaziz was speaking at a joint news conference with Ahmet Üzümcü, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Mr. Üzümcü - who had visited the site in Ruwagha where the chemical weapons were destroyed last week - described the move as a "significant milestone" for Libya. He added that it was a "good example of international cooperation now emulated in Syria on a larger scale".
The process began 10 years ago under the then Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, when Tripoli joined the CWC. Gaddafi's government had succeeded in getting rid of 54 percent of its declared sulphur mustard and about 40 percent of the precursor chemicals before operations had to be suspended in February 2011 when the destruction facility stopped working.
Gaddafi was ousted from power later that year, and the country's new rulers then told OPCW inspectors about the previously undeclared chemical stocks. The arsenal destroyed by Libya falls under "Category 1 chemical weapons", the OPCW said. The organization says such materials "have been used as chemical weapons in the past and/or have very few or no peaceful uses, and thus pose the most direct threat" to the CWC.
It added that the destruction of chemical precursors - Category 2 chemicals - was to be completed by Libya by December 2016. Precursors are defined as "chemicals involved in production stages for toxic chemicals". Most of these chemicals "have some industrial uses".
The OPCW is an independent international organization which works with the United Nations to monitor the 1997 convention banning the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
Myanmar Arrests Journalists Who Reported a Secret Chemical-Arms Site
National Journal, Global Security Newswire, 04 February 2014; www.nationaljournal.com
Myanmar has arrested a group of journalists connected to a recent report about an alleged chemical-arms production plant in the Southeast Asian nation. Over the weekend, the Myanmar Police Force's Special Branch took into custody four journalists and the head of the small journal Unity, the Straits Times reported on Tuesday. The media personnel have been accused of revealing state secrets.
The Unity report about the alleged chemical plant, located in Myanmar's central Magwe region, contained photographs and detailed a "secret chemical weapon factory of the former generals, Chinese technicians and the commander-in-chief at Pauk Township," according to a summary by Irrawaddy magazine.
The so-called "24" facility reportedly was established in 2009 as part of a number of facilities connected by about 1,000 feet of tunnels. Unity reported that area residents had spotted Chinese workers at the plant.
Immediately prior to his Saturday arrest, Unity CEO Tint San said he had proof that the article's assertions were true: "I went to the factory myself. We have concrete evidence. I even left out some facts that might disclose state secrets. ... I'm ready to face whatever happens in the future."
The journal issue has been removed from magazine stands.
There have been previous reports, though never confirmed, of chemical arms sites in Myanmar, which is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. There also have been unconfirmed reports of government troops last year using toxins against Kachin rebels in the country's north.
Under the former ruling military junta, there were concerns about Myanmar researching nuclear weapons with assistance from North Korea. In recent years, the current nominally civilian-led government has worked hard to convince the international community it has no interest in nuclear arms or other unconventional weapons.
Secret Operation Eliminates Libya's Last Chemical Arms
Global Security Newswire, 03 February 2014; www.nti.org/gsn
A Libyan-U.S. operation last week destroyed the last chemical arms from the stockpile of former dictator Muammar Qadhafi, the New York Times reports.
In a secret effort carried out over three months, Libyan personnel used mobile equipment to incinerate several hundred munitions loaded with deadly mustard blister agent, the newspaper said on Sunday. The Libyan participants first visited Germany and Sweden for training to prepare for the project.
The unpublicized activities concluded on January 26 at a heavily secured location roughly 400 miles southeast of Tripoli. The surrounding area is thought to be falling under the sway of militants tied to al-Qaida, according to the Times.
Andrew Weber, assistant Defense secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said the disarmament milestone represents "the culmination of a major international effort to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Libya and to ensure that they never fall into the hands of terrorists."
The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative provided $45 million for a Defense Department-led effort to repair and secure a Libyan chemical-arms destruction facility damaged during Libya's 2011 revolution. Raids on the site did not affect any mustard agent sealed in storage tanks at the site, according to U.S. and international authorities.
Chemical-arms expert Paul Walker said the full destruction of the North African nation's chemical arms marks "a big breakthrough." "Even though Libya’s chemical stockpile was relatively small, the effort to destroy it was very difficult because of weather, geography and because it’s a dangerous area with warring tribes, increasing the risks of theft and diversion," said Walker, director of environmental security and sustainability at Green Cross International.
The mission took place under the oversight of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the world's chemical-arms watchdog agency. In prepared comments, OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü said the chemical-arms elimination effort "was a major undertaking in arduous, technically challenging circumstances."
Gulf Customs Officers Get Tips on How to Handle Dual-Use Chemicals
Gulf Times, 02 February 2014; www.gulf-times.com
Customs inspectors from the [Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)]* region were trained yesterday on how to handle the clearance of dual-use industrial chemicals during their exit from or entry into a country.
The two-day "Sub-regional Training Course for Customs Authorities of the GCC Countries on Technical Aspects of the Transfers Regime" was inaugurated by Brigadier General (Air) Hassan bin Saleh al-Nesf, vice-chairman of the National Committee for the Prohibition of Weapons (NCPW), in Doha yesterday.
"The main target of this training is to equip Customs clearance officers and inspectors with adequate technical knowledge to process the entry and exit of dual-use industrial chemicals according to regulations of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)," said Brigadier General al-Nesf.
He stressed that such chemicals, if misused or if they fall in the wrong hands, could be used in the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction or other weapons - something that has never been recorded in Qatar due to the alertness of the Customs systems in the country.
Further, Customs officers have now access to sophisticated electronic systems where they enter the code number and name of the imported/exported chemicals and find out instantly if there is any ban or curbs on their handling. Such security procedures are carried out in a smooth manner to avoid any delay in the delivery processes, which may adversely affect the industries concerned.
Brigadier General al-Nesf explained that Customs officers are well-trained in comparing exporters’ and importers’ documents indicating the types of materials and quantities. So, in case of discrepancies or suspicion, the process will be halted until it is resolved through proper documentation. Such training has been regularly held in the country for the past eight years, he added.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Y al-Sahel, acting director of the Sea Customs Department, said around 25 Customs officers from Qatar are attending the training course, besides officers from all the other GCC states as well as from Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and other countries. He appreciated the efforts of NCPW in training them, which he considers to be highly instrumental in the country’s safety and security.
Both Brigadier General al-Nesf and Al-Salef agreed that the Customs regulations applied in all GCC countries help enforce relevant rules and laws as they have mutual and common interests.
A number of OPCW experts made presentations on related topics such as the history of the use of chemical weapons, introduction to the OPCW, chemicals to be monitored under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the transfer provisions of CWC and trade in scheduled chemicals in the region.
The trainees were also introduced to various key elements, which included the main CWC definitions of chemical and toxic weapons, the concept of dual use of chemicals and use of the most common scheduled chemicals.
Stakeholders in chemical industries and businesses will undergo similar training today to boost their awareness and ensure hassle-free clearance during export or import of chemicals.
*The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is a political and economic union of the following Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.
U.S. Concern at Syria Chemical Weapons Delay
BBC News, 30 January 2014; www.bbc.co.uk
The United States is "concerned" that Syria is behind schedule in handing over its chemical weapons, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said. Mr. Hagel told reporters in Poland that Damascus "had to take responsibility for fulfilling its commitment".
The United States believes that only around 4 percent of the chemicals declared by the Syrian government have been removed. […] Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles are due to be removed and destroyed by June 30.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - the international watchdog overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal - is meeting in The Hague to discuss the operation's progress. That meeting is likely to continue into Friday given "the gravity of the situation," a spokesman told the BBC.
Mr. Hagel said he had asked the Russian defense minister to try to influence the Syrian government to comply with the agreement. In a statement to the OPCW, the U.S. ambassador to the body, Robert Mikulak, said "the effort to remove chemical agent and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled". "The spotlight now is on Syria to proceed without further delay to comply with its obligations and make this effort a success," he added.
Under the terms of the UN-backed plan to destroy Syria's arsenal, the Syrian authorities are responsible for packing and safely transporting the chemical weapons to the Mediterranean port of Latakia. Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take them to Italy, where they will loaded onto a U.S. Maritime Administration cargo ship, MV Cape Ray.
The materials will be destroyed in international waters.
Syria’s Chemical Weapons Stockpile
BBC, 30 January 2014; www.bbc.co.uk
Last September, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) received an initial disclosure from the Syrian government of its chemical weapons programme, the first time the country had made a formal declaration. Syria also signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and agreed to the destruction of its chemical weapons.
The OPCW has yet to release the details of the declaration, leaving the size of Syria's arsenal subject to speculation. But experts believe the stockpile, considered to be one of the world's largest, contains the blister agent sulphur mustard, the nerve agent sarin, and the more potent and persistent nerve agent VX.
Following a deadly chemical weapons attack in Damascus on 21 August 2013, the United States and Russia agreed a plan with Syria to remove and destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
Weapon development and delivery
The United States stated in 2002 that Syria had a "long-standing chemical warfare programme", which was first developed in the 1970s. A recent report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service said Syria probably began stockpiling chemical weapons in 1972 or 1973, when it was given a small number of chemicals and delivery systems by Egypt before the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Damascus started acquiring the materials and knowledge necessary to produce chemical weapons in the 1980s, reportedly with the help of the Soviet Union. Equipment and chemicals are also thought to have been procured from European companies.
In 2011, the U.S. director of national intelligence concluded that Syria remained "dependent on foreign sources for key elements" of its chemical weapons programme, including precursor chemicals, which are generally dual-use chemicals that can be combined to produce blister or nerve agents.
Before the uprising, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Centre (CERS) was believed to run at least four chemical agent manufacturing plants - at Dumayr, Khan Abou, Shamat and Furklus - and operate additional storage sites dispersed across the country in some 50 different towns and cities.
The exact size of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal is not known, but in June 2012, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Deputy Chief of Staff Maj Gen Yair Nave described it as "the largest in the world".
According to a French intelligence assessment published in September 2013, Damascus has more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and precursor chemicals, including:
- Several hundreds of tonnes of sulphur mustard
- Several hundreds of tonnes of sarin
- Several tens of tonnes of VX
According to the White House, the Syrian military has access to "thousands of munitions" that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents, including a variety of long- and short-range ballistic missiles, aerial bombs and artillery rockets.
Since the beginning of the uprising, ammunitions carrying lesser volumes are believed to have been developed for more focused and local tactical use.
Regarding the chain of command, the French intelligence assessment said the section of the Syrian military responsible for filling munitions with chemical agents and for security at storage sites - "Branch 450" of the CERS - was staffed only by members of the president's minority Alawite sect and was "distinguished by a high level of loyalty to the regime".
"Bashar al-Assad and certain influential members of his clan are the only ones permitted to give the order for the use of chemical weapons. The order is then transmitted to those responsible at the competent branches of the CERS," it added. "At the same time, the army chiefs of staff receive the order and decide on targets, the weapons and the toxic agents."
- Human Rights Watch says 330mm surface-to-surface rockets were used to attack Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta on 21 August. At least four strike sites have been found.
- From remnants of the weapons found, HRW has reconstructed the characteristics of the rocket. It says it was capable of carrying up to 60 litres of chemical nerve agent.
- The payload of the rocket consisted of a large, thin-walled container. A small explosive charge at the front would detonate on impact and rupture the skin, dispersing the chemicals inside.
Syria is widely believed to possess large quantities of the blister agent sulphur mustard. The term "mustard gas" is commonly used to describe the agent, but it is liquid at ambient temperature.
Sulphur mustard sometimes smells - like garlic, onions, or mustard - and sometimes has no odor. It can be clear to yellow or brown.
People can be exposed through skin contact, eye contact or breathing if it is released into the air as a vapor, or by consuming it or getting it on their skin if it is in liquid or solid form. It causes blistering of the skin and mucous membranes on contact.
Though exposure to sulphur mustard usually is not fatal, there is no treatment or antidote to mustard which means the agent must be removed entirely from the body.
Syria started to produce tube and rocket artillery rounds filled with mustard-type blistering agents in 1993, presumed to be the first weaponization of its kind.
Sarin is a neurotoxic organophosphorus compound that is highly toxic and lethal. It is considered 20 times as deadly as cyanide and is impossible to detect because it is a clear, colorless and tasteless liquid that has no odor in its purest form. It can also evaporate and spread through the air.
As with all nerve agents, Sarin inhibits the action of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, which deactivates signals that cause human nerve cells to fire. This blockage pushes nerves into a continual "on" state. The heart and other muscles - including those involved in breathing - spasm. Sufficient exposure can lead to death via asphyxiation within minutes.
Sarin, like VX, is believed to be stocked in a "binary manner" by the Syrian military. This means it is kept as two distinct chemical precursors, which are combined just before use, either manually or automatically inside a weapon when launched.
According to a report by UN chemical weapons inspectors, there is "clear and convincing evidence" that surface-to-surface rockets containing sarin were fired at suburbs to the east and west of Damascus in an attack on 21 August that killed hundreds of people.
According to U.S., British, French and Israeli officials, there is also evidence that Syrian government forces used sarin against rebels and civilians on several previous occasions.
French intelligence said analysis of samples taken from the northern town of Saraqeb and the Damascus suburb of Jobar in April showed that munitions containing sarin had been deployed. However, doubts have been expressed about the chain of custody of those samples as they travelled from their original locations in Syria to laboratories in other countries.
VX, another neurotoxic organophosphorus compound, is the most toxic known chemical warfare agent - about 10 times more toxic than sarin.
It is an oily liquid that is amber in color, and is Odorless and tasteless. Once it is released into the air, people can be exposed through skin contact, eye contact or inhalation.
Symptoms appear within a few seconds after exposure to the vapor form of VX, and within a few minutes after exposure to the liquid form. As with sarin, VX attacks the nervous system.
VX evaporates about as slowly as motor oil and can persist for a long time under average weather conditions, unlike sarin. It therefore poses both a short- and long-term threat.
Second Set of Chemical Weapons Shipped Out of Syria for Destruction
RTT News (Russia), 28 January 2014; www.rttnews.com
A second shipment of chemical weapons materials was removed from Syria on Monday. "The chemical materials were verified by Joint Mission personnel before being loaded in Latakia port onto Danish and Norwegian cargo vessels for onward transportation," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN joint mission for the elimination of Chemical Weapons program said in a press release.
The vessels were accompanied by a naval escort provided by China, Denmark, Norway and Russia.
The Joint Mission said it "looks forward to the Syrian Arab Republic continuing its efforts to complete the removal of its chemical weapons materials in a safe, secure and timely manner, in line with OPCW Executive Council decisions and UN Security Council Resolution."
Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention following a chemical weapons attack in August that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb. In September, UN Security Council passed a resolution to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons material and equipment. The UN and OPCW are in a joint mission overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles, scheduled for completion by 30 June, 2014.
Syria is estimated to possess approximately 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, agents and precursors that are spread over multiple sites in a country engulfed in violent conflict. The chemical materials, which are dangerous to handle and transport, were supposed to be shipped out of Syria through its coastal city of Latakia, and destroyed on a ship in the Mediterranean sea.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the deployment of the container ship M/V Cape Ray on board which the chemical weapons material will be destroyed. The U.S. cargo ship left Portsmouth, Virginia, on Monday for the Italian port of Gioia Tauro.
The Danish and Norwegian cargo vessels will transfer Syrian chemicals, weighing about 700 tons, to M/V Cape Ray. The chemicals, including raw materials for making sarin and mustard gas, will be destroyed on board the Cape Ray using proven hydrolysis technology.
The Pentagon said the United States remains committed to ensuring its neutralization of Syria's chemical materials prioritizing the safety of people, protecting the environment, following verification procedures of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and with applicable standards. "All waste from the hydrolysis process on M/V Cape Ray will be safely and properly disposed of at commercial facilities to be determined by the OPCW. No hydrolysis byproducts will be released into the sea or air. M/V Cape Ray will comply with all applicable international laws, regulations, and treaties," the Pentagon assured.
At the same time, the U.S. Defense Department said it is the responsibility of the Assad regime to transport the chemical materials safely to facilitate their removal for destruction. Washington called on the Assad regime to intensify its efforts to ensure its international obligations and commitments are met so these materials may be removed from Syria as quickly and safely as possible.
In his message to Captain Jordan and the crew of the MV Cape Ray, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said "You will be destroying, at sea, one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons and helping make a safer world."
New Danish Initiative Strengthens Biosecurity in East Africa
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (Udenrigsministeriet), 28 January 2014; um.dk
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Defense and The Ministry of Health are cooperating on an innovative pilot project that aims to improve biosecurity and health in East Africa. The project will be implemented by the Danish Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness at Statens Serum Institute under The Ministry of Health.
Biosecurity - securing material that can be used to develop biological weapons - is an international obligation under both the Biological Weapons Convention and the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540. Every country is obliged to work towards the universalization of the norms of the convention and resolution, including assisting states that do not have sufficient capacity to implement biosecurity systems.
The Danish government has developed a comprehensive new policy for disarmament and non-proliferation. As one of its priorities, the policy will contribute to improving international biosecurity. The project will also serve as a health promotion initiative by working with a partner country in East Africa to improve its diagnostic methods and strengthening its capacity to respond to infectious diseases.
The organization of the Danish biosecurity system is clear and manageable, which makes it suitable for transfer to developing countries. Taking into account local conditions, the pilot project will take initial steps to transfer Danish biosecurity experiences and best practices to the partner country.
The activities now being launched in East Africa will focus on training and education of key stakeholders in relation to biosecurity, assistance in the preparation of biosecurity legislation, help to create a national authority responsible for biosecurity inspired by the Danish model, and preliminary steps to introduce modern diagnostic methods.
The two year pilot project is implemented as part of the Danish Peace and Stability Fund. A steering group with members from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense has been established to provide direction to the project. In addition, the project activities will be carried out in close dialogue with international partners from the G8 initiative Global Partnership against the Spread of Materials of Weapons of Mass Destruction, of which Denmark is one of 27 members.
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