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Who Will Destroy Syria's Chemical Weapons? Not Albania

The United Nations on Friday outlined a plan for destroying Syria's chemical weapons, but there's still no word on who will carry out the delicate task of disposing of the deadly agents.

The plan "sets ambitious milestones to be met by the Government of Syria," said Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW. "This next phase will be the most challenging, and its timely execution will require the existence of a secure environment for the verification and transport of chemical weapons."

The OPCW says its timetable for destroying "priority chemical weapons" outside Syria was March 31, 2014, and June 30 for "all other declared chemical materials."

But just where they will be disposed of remains a question mark. Last month, Norway turned down a U.S. request to take on the task, and in a surprise move on Friday, Albania also said no.

NATO-member Albania is one of only three countries to have declared a chemical weapons stockpile and voluntarily destroyed it under an OPCW regime. The country had been widely expected to take on the destruction of Syria's weapons.

But on Friday in a televised address, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that it was "impossible for Albania to take part in this operation."

The Associated Press describes the Balkan nation's refusal as "a major blow":

"It [leaves] the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons without a country to host the destruction of Syria's estimated 1,000-metric-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and the deadly nerve agent sarin."

The U.S. Embassy in Albania issued a statement Friday saying Washington respected Tirana's decision and that the U.S. "will continue to work with Allies and partners as well as the OPCW and the United Nations to ensure the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons program."

"We remain confident that we will complete elimination of the [weapons] program within the timeline agreed upon," the statement said.

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