Norway Rejects U.S. Request to Help Destroy Syrian Chemical Weapons

LONDON — Citing regulatory
constraints and time pressures, Norway
said Friday that it had turned down an
American request to help destroy
chemical weapons as part of the effort
to dismantle Syria’s arsenal of toxic
munitions.
The incoming government of the
Conservative prime minister, Erna
Solberg, has been considering the
request for several weeks, and has
conducted “extensive discussions” with
the United States, the Norwegian
Foreign Ministry said in a statement on
its Web site .
“The two countries have come to the
joint understanding that Norway is not
the most suitable location for this
destruction,” the statement said.
Officials at the American Embassy in
Oslo and at the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in
The Hague, which is leading the effort
to dismantle Syria’s stocks of poison
gas and nerve agents, offered no
immediate comment on the likely
impact of Norway’s decision on the
United Nations-backed plan to destroy
the weapons by mid-2014.
News reports said the United States had
asked other unspecified countries apart
from Norway to help destroy the
stockpiles.
In its latest statement on the mission —
part of a joint effort by Russia and the
United States following an attack using
poison gas in a Damascus suburb on
Aug. 21 — the Organization for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said
its inspectors in Syria had visited 18 of
23 sites disclosed by the Syrian
authorities and had undertaken
“functional destruction activities of
critical equipment” at almost all of
them.
In its statement, the foreign ministry in
Oslo said the authorities had taken the
decision to reject the American
overture because of “time constraints
and external factors, such as capacities,
regulatory requirements.”
Earlier this week, Boerge Brende, the
newly appointed foreign minister, said
Norway lacked equipment and was
forbidden by law from storing the
chemical waste likely to result from
destroying the Syrian weapons.
At a webcast news conference on
Friday, Mr. Brende said the deadline of
mid-2014 was too tight for Norway,
The Associated Press reported, and the
authorities had not been able to
identify a port that could receive toxic
substances. Earlier this week, Norway
said it had been asked to participate in
the destruction of 50 metric tons of
mixed chemicals in the form of
mustard gas and some 300 to 500
metric tons of materials needed to
make nerve agents, The A.P. said.
The state broadcaster, NRK, has
reported that Norway was asked to help
destroy the chemicals because it is
politically stable, has ample water
resources needed for the processes
involved and can afford to help
finance the program.
The American request presented Ms.
Solberg’s incoming government with a
first diplomatic test after elections in
September ousted her predecessor, Jens
Stoltenberg.
Ms. Solberg was quoted by the state
broadcaster as saying her country,
which is an ally of the United States
within NATO, was “not negative to
something the U.N. believes is
important.” But Norwegian officials
said the country had no experience in
dealing with chemical weapons.