Jan. 7 - The first batch of Syria's chemical weapons materials are moved out of the country for destruction, beginning a crucial phase of an internationally backed disarmament program delayed by war and technical problems. Mana Rabiee reports.
These ships are part of the flotilla that's been waiting to remove chemical weapons from Syria. On Tuesday, the United Nations announced the first batch of the most deadly toxins -- nine containers in all -- was moved out of the country for destruction. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL, SAYING: "An initial quantity of priority chemical materials was moved from two sites to the port of Lattakia in Syria for verification and was then loaded onto a Danish cargo ship... This movement initiates the process of transfer of chemical materials from Syria to locations outside its territory for destruction." Their transfer comes two weeks before planned peace talks in Geneva over Syria's 21/2 year long civil war. Also on Tuesday, Syria's Information Minister said Damascus insisted that any agreement allows President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN INFORMATION MINISTER, OMRAN ZOABI, SAYING: "We understand very well that there must be, in the political future of Syria, a united, national government. Or an expanded government. Call it whatever you want . But don't call it a transitional ruling committee." Tuesday's shipment was a crucial phase of an internationally-backed disarmament agreement with Syria. It was delayed until now by war and technical problems.