Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has rejected a U.S. request that Albania host the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.
In a speech Friday, Mr. Rama said it is “impossible” for the Balkan nation to take part in the operation. He said no other countries have stepped forward to house a facility that will dismantle the weapons.
His announcement came amid strong opposition to the plan in Albania. On Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Mr. Rama’s office in the capital, Tirana, waving banners and chanting “No to chemical weapons.”
Earlier Friday, a chemical weapons monitoring group met to decide the fate of Syria’s chemical arsenal, with Albania emerging as a possible place where the weapons would be destroyed.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said Syria’s stockpile should be moved out of the country before the risky process of destroying the arsenal is carried out.
Syria’s government, which has submitted a detailed disarmament plan to the OPCW, shares that view. But the search for a country willing to receive the weapons has been unsuccessful.
Norway has offered to send a navy frigate and a civilian cargo ship to Syria to help transport the weapons. But Oslo refused to allow the stockpile to be destroyed on Norwegian soil.
Under a U.N.-backed plan, Syria has agreed to destroy its chemical arsenal by the middle of next year. Its stockpile includes poison gas and the deadly nerve agent sarin.
More than 120,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, while more than 2 million others have been forced to flee their homes.