UK to help US destroy Syrian chemical arms

January 14, 2014 - 4:56:13 am

Damaged buildings are pictured in the besieged area of Homs in Syria, yesterday. 

LONDON: Britain said yesterday it planned to give the United States specialist equipment and training to help it destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal more quickly.

Part of Syria’s chemical stockpile is due to be destroyed on board a specially adapted US ship under an international accord engineered by Russia in the wake of a poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds, including children, last August.

British Defence Minister Philip Hammond said in a written statement to parliament yesterday his country planned to gift equipment to the US worth around £2.5m ($4.12m) that would allow the chemicals to be processed at a higher rate. “The US approached the UK to support this primary activity from our domestic industry as they would not have been able to procure the device themselves within the timeframes set,” Hammond said.

Meanwhile, the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executed dozens of rival Islamists over the last two days as the group recaptured most territory it had lost in the northeastern Syrian province of Raqqa, activists said.

One of the activists, who spoke from the province on condition of anonymity, said up to 100 fighters from the Nusra Front, another Al Qaeda affiliate, and the Ahrar Al Sham brigade, captured by ISIL in the town of Tel Abyad on the border with Turkey, the nearby area of Qantari and the provincial capital city of Raqqa, were shot dead. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

“About 70 bodies, most shot in the head, were collected and sent to the Raqqa National hospital,” the activist said. “Many of those executed had been wounded in the fighting. The fact that Nusra Front and Ahrar Al Sham are ideologically similar to the ISIL did not matter,” he added.

Heavy fighting has prevented health workers from getting polio vaccine to an estimated 100,000 Syrian children in the northeastern province of Raqqa, United Nations aid agencies said yesterday, appealing for access.

The crippling infectious disease was confirmed in 15 children in Syria in October, the first outbreak there since 1999. A nationwide campaign was launched in November to vaccinate some 2 million Syrian children under five each month until May. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the halt of the immunisation campaign in Raqqa province due to intense fighting in Syria’s civil war.Reuters

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