Albania confirms US demand on Syria chemical weapon destruction

Albania confirmed Thursday it was asked by the US to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal on its soil, as protesters gathered outside the parliament in Tirana to demonstrate against any such plans.

"We were contacted by the United States, but no decision has been made yet," parliamentary speaker Ilir Meta said late Thursday in an interview to Top Channel television.

"Any decision will be made transparently and will take into account the interest of the country," Meta said.

"I do not think that Albania has the capacity, even other much bigger and more developed countries do not accept to do it," he added.

Earlier in the day the activists pleaded with the Albanian government to resist any requests from foreign governments to help eliminate Syrian weapons in Albania, chanting "No to chemical arms."

"The authorities must not allow the Syrian chemical arsenal to be destroyed on Albanian soil. Albania must firmly oppose such a demand," Saiga Guri of the non-governmental Alliance Against Waste Import, told protesters.

Guri added: "Albania has no capacities and should not be a dustbin, thus endangering lives of its citizens."

France, Belgium and Albania have been mentioned as possible sites for the dismantling of Syria's entire chemical arsenal, estimated at about 1,000 tonnes.

On Thursday, a Belgian foreign ministry spokesman told AFP that the US had contacted several of its allies, including Albania, for possible help in destroying Syria's chemical arsenal.

"The Americans held an exploratory working brief in early October with Belgium, Norway, France and Albania to see what capacities each might have to treat chemical weapons," the Belgian spokesman said, adding that no formal request had yet been made.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2118 passed in September, Syria's weaponry has to be destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Albania's government has so far refused to make any comment on a possible offer.

However, Besnik Baraj, a deputy of the ruling Socialist party and active environmental campaigner, said he was opposed to such a possibility.

"Albania has no means to stock and dismantle such a big quantity" of arms, Baraj told TV station News 24.

Six years ago, it was confirmed that Albania had destroyed its own stockpile of chemical weapons, a left over from the communist period.

Norway has ruled out destroying the chemical weapons on its soil.

UNDERSTANDING THE SYRIA CONFLICT