All toxic chemicals removed from Syria now at destruction sites: OPCW

A view shows Ekokem AB's hazardous waste treatment plant in Riihimaki February 14, 2014. Ekokem AB of Finland and Veolia of France have won contracts to destroy part of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, the global watchdog OPCW said. REUTERS/Martti Kainulainen/Lehtikuva

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - All the toxic chemicals removed from Syria under a deal with the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile have been delivered to destruction facilities outside the country, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement that the 1,300 tonnes of chemicals removed from Syria were now being destroyed at various locations. The watchdog said 32 percent of the total had been destroyed by July 21.

The OPCW also announced that the 12 former chemical weapons production facilities in Syria would be placed beyond use. Seven hangars would be razed to the ground, it said, while five underground structures would be sealed off permanently.

The Hague-based organization was given the task of overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stocks after a sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus last year which killed hundreds of people.

Six hundred tonnes of the most deadly chemicals are being destroyed using equipment installed on a U.S. vessel, the MV Cape Ray. The remainder are being destroyed at commercial land-based facilities in Finland, Britain and the United States.

The presence of such large quantities of toxic chemicals has caused public alarm and was met with stiff opposition from local politicians and residents in some of the countries participating in the destruction process.

In January, the Italian government was forced to reassure residents near the port of GioiaTauro, where the chemicals were transloaded, that they were in no danger.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)