ABOARD CARGO SHIP ARK FUTURA – Denmark's foreign minister on Tuesday urged Syria to give up the last of its chemical weapons agents within days to meet a June 30 deadline for completely ridding the war-torn country of its lethal stockpile.
Martin Lidegaard said there are "serious security problems" concerning the last 16 containers, some of which have agents used to create deadly VX and Sarin nerve gases.
But he said these problems can be resolved and the Syrian government needs to make that a priority.
"That is the clear message to the Syrian government that we expect them to deliver the last containers as soon as possible, hopefully within days," Lidegaard told The Associated Press aboard a Danish cargo ship used to ferry the agents out of Syria.
The ship, the Ark Futura, is part of a Danish-Norwegian flotilla that also includes two warships and another cargo vessel that has been moving the chemicals out of Syria since January. The agents will eventually be destroyed aboard a U.S. ship.
Syria already missed an April 27 deadline for all chemical agents to be removed or destroyed in the country.
The Ark Futura and the Norwegian MV Taiko are currently anchored in international waters off the south coast of Cyprus awaiting word to head for the Syrian port of Latakia to pick up the last batch of chemicals, representing 8 percent of Syria's stockpile.
Lidegaard visited both the Ark Futura and its escort, the Danish frigate HDMS Esbern Snare, where he thanked the sailors for their work.
He said the Danish vessels are under orders to remain until the end of June, but that "we can't wait forever."
The cargo ships each have around 100-110 containers aboard, filled with chemicals used to make VX and Sarin gases as well as less lethal agents. Three of the containers aboard the Ark Futura are filled with ready-to-use mustard gas, said Warrant Officer Per Andersen with Denmark's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons unit.
The containers are monitored around the clock according to strict regulations issued by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure that they pose no risk to the crew, Andersen said.
The CBRN unit chief, Capt. Jens Larsen, said both cargo ships are needed for the last pick-up to separately transport agents that when mixed create the lethal gases.