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Albania declines to host destruction of Syria's chemical weapons

Albania has turned down a request for it to host the destruction of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons. Syria agreed to their destruction as part of a UN Security Council deal to avoid US military strikes.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the decision in a nationally televised address broadcast on Friday evening.

"It is impossible for Albania to take part in such an operation," Prime Minister Rama said.

He added that while Tirana had previously agreed "in principle" to a US request to "contribute to the destruction of chemical weapons," the Albanian authorities had determined that they simply did "not have the capacity" to do so.

Rama's announcement was met with a cheer from a few thousand demonstrators opposed to Albania taking on the task of destroying the Syrian weapons, who were camped outside of the prime minister's office.

The US embassy in Tirana responded to the decision with a statement issued shortly afterwards.

"The United States will continue to work with Allies and partners as well as theOPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) and the United Nations to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program," the statement said.

"We remain confident that we will complete elimination of the program within the timeline agreed upon," it added.

The "timeline" refers to a deadline of June 30, 2014 agreed by the United Nations Security Council under a resolutionpassed back in September, which allowed Syria to avoid threatened US military strikes in return for allowing its chemical weapons to be destroyed.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said it wants the weapons destroyed outside of the country and the OPCW had agreed that this is the "most viable" option.

Last month, Norway also announced that it would not be able to host the destruction activities, which are to be overseen by OPCW inspectors.

pfd/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)