The last of President Bashar al-Assad's declared chemical weapons stores have been shipped out of Syria for eventual destruction aboard the specially-outfitted U.S. ship Cape Ray, United Nations chemical weapons monitors said Monday.
The 648-foot Cape Ray, with Field Deployable Hydrolysis Systems aboard for destroying chemical weapons, was still docked in Rota, Spain, and there was no immediate word on when she would leave port to pick up the chemical weapons for destruction at sea, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The Cape Ray, part of the Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Force, left Portsmouth, Va., on Jan. 27 and has been in Rota since Feb. 13 while Syria missed several deadlines for removing 100 percent of its chemical weapons materials and precursors.
The final 8 percent of Syria's chemical weapons departed the Syrian port of Latakia on Monday, said Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
"The United States and our international partners will now work to destroy these materials so they never again pose a threat to the Syrian people or America's allies in the region -- an outcome that was hard to imagine a year ago," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement.
"The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura," Uzumcu said in a statement.
Uzumcu noted that the job of ensuring that Syria would not continue to produce chemical weapons was not complete. He said Syria was still required to destroy several facilities that could be used for the production of chemical weapons.
"Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict, and this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight time frames," said Uzumcu.
The Ark Futura will deliver the last of the chemical weapons stores to the port of Gioia Taura in Calabria, Italy, where all of the chemical weapons from Syria have been stored awaiting pickup by the Cape Ray.
The Cape Ray intends to destroy the weapons at sea and the waste products will be further treated at commercial facilities in Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, Uzumcu said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@monster.com.