US ship loading final Syrian chemical weapons for destruction

A U.S. vessel near Italy began taking custody Wednesday of a portion of Syria’s chemical weapons in the final phase of the operation to destroy them at sea. 

The U.S.’s Cape Ray, which docked in Gioia Tauro, Italy, a day earlier is loading the weapons onboard from the Danish ship Ark Futura. 

More than a week ago, the Ark Futura took the last of Syria’s known supplies to produce chemical weapons from the port of Latakia.

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The chemicals include raw materials that can be used to produce sarin, a nerve agent, and mustard gas.

According to The New York Times, the Cape Ray has two machines known as Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems that can neutralize the chemical arsenal before the ship reaches international waters.

“It will take two to three days for the transshipment of materials to the Cape Ray, and then the Cape Ray will get underway and start the process at sea,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. 

Kirby said he didn't know how long the destruction process at sea would take. 

Finland has reportedly already destroyed some of Syria’s chemicals, and Britain and Germany will also help get rid of the store.

On June 23, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that the final 8 percent of the 1,300-ton chemical weapons stockpile was removed from Syria.  

Last week, however, the OPCW said the verification work was incomplete because the Syrian government hadn't fulfilled its promise to dismantle a dozen facilities used for producing the chemical weapons.