Syria chemical weapons could be destroyed at sea: watchdog

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Syria's over 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons and precursors could be destroyed at sea if no country agrees to dispose of them on its soil, the world's chemical watchdog said on Wednesday.

"This possibility has been looked at for some time already," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) spokesman Christian Chartier said of destroying the chemicals at sea.

"It's still being looked at and is one of several solutions envisaged by member states and as long as a decision has not been taken, it remains a possibility," Mr Chartier said.

The OPCW's Executive Council on Friday approved a final roadmap for ridding Syria of its arsenal by mid-2014, with a plan on how to destroy them out of the country, on land or at sea, to be approved by December 17.

The world is in agreement about destroying Syria's chemical weapons as part of a US-Russia deal aimed at heading off strikes on the Damascus regime after deadly chemical attacks in August.

But despite consensus on destroying the chemicals outside war-wracked Syria, no country has yet been found ready to have them destroyed on its soil.

Belgium said on Monday that it was not favourable to destroying the chemicals on its soil. Albania also rejected such a possibility on Friday after a string of protests.

Norway too has ruled out destroying the chemical weapons on its soil but along with Denmark has offered ships to help take the chemicals out of Syria.

France said on Tuesday that it was prepared to offer expertise, but denied that it had been approached to destroy the chemicals.