TIRANA, Albania (AP) — It's a major blow to the effort to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile by the middle of next year.
Syria wants the destruction to take place in some other country, and the United States asked the tiny, impoverished Balkan nation of Albania to host that project. But Albania's prime minister today said no -- an announcement that was greeted with a loud cheer by about 2,000 protesters camped outside his office.
One protester says, "We can't deal with our own stuff, let alone Syrian weapons."
In his televised address, the prime minister said it was "impossible for Albania to take part in this operation."
Albania, a member of NATO, is one of only three nations that has declared a chemical weapons stockpile and destroyed it. Nations including the United States and Russia also have declared stockpiles, but haven't yet completed their destruction.
193-r-09-(Sound of whistling and cheering, with distant chanting in opposition to taking Syria's chemical weapons, in a protest outside of the prime minister's office)--Sound of protestors demonstrating against the U.S. request for Albania to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. (15 Nov 2013)
<<CUT *193 (11/15/13)££ 00:09
192-a-14-(Tomor Luzati (TOH'-mor loo-ZAH'-tih), protester, in AP interview)-"kind of experiment"-Protester Tomor Luzati says Albania is not the place for Syria's chemical weapons. (15 Nov 2013)
<<CUT *192 (11/15/13)££ 00:14 "kind of experiment"
190-a-10-(Jen Psaki (SAH'-kee), spokeswoman, State Department, at news conference)-"safest manner possible"-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says Albania's refusal to accept chemical weapons from Syria for destruction means they'll have to go somewhere else. (15 Nov 2013)
<<CUT *190 (11/15/13)££ 00:10 "safest manner possible"
APPHOTO TIR106: Thousands of Albanians in Tirana, Friday Nov. 15, 2013 greet the announcement by Prime Minister Edi Rama saying he turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, under the supervision of international experts. Albania, a NATO member, was seen as a possible choice since it recently destroyed its own poison gas arsenal. (AP Photo/Hektor Pusina) (15 Nov 2013)
<<APPHOTO TIR106 (11/15/13)££
APPHOTO TIR102: Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama gestures during a televised address to Albanians in Tirana, Albania, Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Rama turned down a request by the United States to be part of an operation to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpile. The announcement comes after days of protests across the country. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina) (15 Nov 2013)
<<APPHOTO TIR102 (11/15/13)££