Syria’s chemical weapons

Portugal spared from dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons

After last Wednesday’s news over plans to use the Azores for the transhipping of Syria’s chemical weapons, it was announced last night (January 16) that the Italian port of Gioia Tauro has finally been chosen for the delicate process.
Thus, as environmentalists in Portugal heave a sigh of relief, anxiety in Italy has been cranked up, with Gioia Tauro’s mayor going as far as to claim that he fears for his life.
Talking to TMNews agency, Renato Bellofiore said of the decision by Italy’s power-mongers to choose his town’s port: “They are putting my life in jeopardy! If something happens, the people will come after me with a pitchfork!”
Italy got wind of the fact that it was more likely to be chosen for the transhipping of 500 tons of chemical weapons from Syria than the Azores a couple of days ago. Since that time, a number of mayors and political leaders have voiced concerns – including the president of Sardinia who threatened “political and judicial action” if his island’s port was chosen.
Indeed, Italy’s reaction all round has been a great deal more explosive than Portugal’s when news that the Azores was a likely candidate for the operation was broadcast on Wednesday.
The time-scale for transhipping has yet to be confirmed, but the Guardian newspaper reported last night that Denmark and Norway are providing cargo ships and military escorts to take the chemical weapons from the Syrian port of Latakia to Italy, where they will be loaded onto a US Maritime Administration cargo ship, the MV Cape Ray.
The materials will then be destroyed in international waters by a process known as hydrolysis, said the Guardian.
Italy’s Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said on Thursday that Gioia Tauro would handle the ship-to-ship transfer, “following international standards and in absolute secure conditions”. He stressed that none of the cargo would come ashore.
Hearing the news second-hand, Renato Bellofiore told the BBC: “Democracy has been trampled on,” he said. “We are not ready for this as a population. Is there an evacuation plan? A rescue plan?”
“We are extremely worried. An accident may be unlikely, but it is not impossible.”