U.S. Offering to Destroy Syrian Chemicals at Sea

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The Obama administration is offering to destroy some of Syria’s deadliest chemical weapons in international waters aboard a nearly 700-foot, U.S. government-owned ship, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The plan, still subject to final approval, would involve destroying the weapons, likely aboard the the MV Cape Ray in the Mediterranean Sea, with U.S. Navy warships patrolling nearby.

This approach would avoid the vexing diplomatic, environmental and security problems posed by disposing of the materials on any nation’s soil.

The Obama administration has used international oceans in other sensitive cases where land-based options were precluded. The U.S. Navy buried al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at sea to avoid his tomb becoming an attraction for extremists. The government has been questioning terror suspects for as long as it takes aboard Navy ships since the CIA closed its secret prisons overseas and President Barack Obama has refused to send more prisoners to the detention center at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision to proceed with the chemical disposal plan would be made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a global chemical weapons watchdog agency with 190 member states.

In a statement Wednesday in the Netherlands, the watchdog agency said the effort to ship Syria’s chemical arsenal out of the country “continues to pose challenges due to the security situation on the ground.”