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First Batch Of Chemical Weapons Material Shipped Out Of Syria

The first batch of chemical weapons material from Syria's stockpile has been loaded onto a Danish commercial ship and is now in international waters, a United Nations official said Tuesday.

Sigrid Kaag, special coordinator for the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, told reporters that the ship was loaded with "priority chemicals," that eventually will be destroyed.

"The vessel has now left the port of Lattakia for international waters," Kaag said. "It will remain at sea awaiting the arrival of additional priority chemical materials at the port. Maritime security is being provided by naval escorts from the People's Republic of China, Denmark, Norway and the Russian Federation."

As the BBC reports, the chemicals — used to make poison gas — are expected to be taken to Italy, where they will be loaded onto a U.S. Navy ship that will travel to international waters. Then they will be destroyed "in a specially created titanium tank on board."

The BBC adds that a previous attempt at collecting part of Syria's arsenal had failed.

The AP reports that the most dangerous chemicals should have been removed from the country by Dec. 31, but "poor security, bad weather and other factors meant the mission missed that deadline."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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