by Steve Scherer
Italy will honour a pledge to host the transfer of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal despite growing domestic opposition and this week will name the commercial port where the handover will take place, a government source said.
The transfer of chemicals aboard a Danish vessel to a specially adapted US ship, where they will be destroyed at sea, is part of an international accord engineered by Russia following a poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus that killed hundreds, including children, in August.
Italy agreed last month to allow the use of a port on its territory for the transit of the toxins used in making sarin, VX gas and other lethal agents, prompting vocal opposition from some areas that had been touted by the media as possible destinations.
Foreign Affairs Minister Emma Bonino will announce the venue chosen for the exchange - expected by the end of January and to take no more than 48 hours - during testimony in parliament on Thursday, the government source said on Sunday.
Later in the day, Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Ahmet Uzumcu will provide lawmakers with details about the procedure in separate testimony, according to parliamentary websites.
The organisation is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, and ships from Denmark, Russia, Norway and China are providing maritime security to the operation.
The mayor of the southern Italian city of Brindisi and the governor of the region of Sardinia have both said they would put up a legal and political fight if their ports were chosen for the handover.
Several criteria were being considered in selecting the port, the government source said, including "its distance from densely populated centres".
That may exclude Brindisi and the Sardinian regional capital Cagliari, whose ports are located at the heart of those cities.
Italian media have said the Sicilian port of Augusta, Gioia Tauro in Calabria, or other more isolated Sardinian ports are also being considered.
Syria's 2½-year civil war has killed at least 125,835 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, and more than 2 million refugees have fled, often overwhelming neighbouring countries.http://www.smh.com.au/world/syrian-chemical-weapons-italy-to-host-transfer-20140113-hv85y.html