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Norway 'not suitable' for Syrian weapons dismantling

Norway has opted out of a US plan to destroy Syrian chemical weapons components on Norwegian soil, saying the timetable is too tight and it lacks resources. The UN wants Syria's entire arsenal destroyed by next June.

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Destroying Syria's Chemical Arsenal

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said on Friday that the US had agreed that Norway was "no longer appropriate" as a site for dismantling Syrian chemical weapons. Norway would contribute in "other areas," Brende said.

He said a US request made to NATO-member Norway last month and based on a UN Security Council resolution requiring the disposal of Syria's entire 1,000-ton arsenal had proved unworkable.

Although Norway had given it "thorough consideration," Brende said the country faced constraints in meeting the timeframe, regulatory limits and providing technical capacities.

"The two nations have come to the joint understanding that Norway is not the most suitable location for this destruction," Brende said in a formal statement.

UN Resolution 2118 was passed in September as a last-minute measure brokered with Russia to avert threatened US attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime for alleged sarin gas use near Damascus on August 21.

A joint team comprising experts from the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been in Syria since early October.

It has inspected 18 of 23 sites declared by Syria and destroyed production equipment in almost all of them.

More clashes, more casualties

Meanwhile, sketchy reports indicate that Kurdish gunmen and Islamist rebels have clashed again in northeastern Syria, this time in the town of Yaaroubiyeh, which is one of the main border crossing points into Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there had been casualties on both sides.

Verification is difficult because of Syria's tight restrictions on international media.

Doctors Without Borders said on Friday that clinics it supports in the Al Safira district near Syria's northern city of Aleppo had treated hundreds of wounded amid fighting in recent weeks. It had also registered 76 deaths from October 1-15.

Some 130,000 residents had fled Al-Safira, it said.

Undecided

Syria's opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition, has said it would meet on November 9 to decide whether to attend a proposed peace conference the UN is trying to convene in Geneva later in November.

"We have decided to put off the (Coalition's) General Assembly and political committee meetings until November 9 in Istanbul," said coalition Samir Nashar.

Coalition leaders have insisted they will not attend the peace conference unless regime change and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's departure are on the table. Those demands have been rejected by Damascus.

ipj/pfd (AFP, dpa, AP)

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