- POSTED: 16 Jan 2014 23:54
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The operation to transfer some 500 tonnes of Syria's deadliest chemicals from a Danish ship to a US vessel is part of a UN-backed plan
ROME: Italy on Thursday named the port of Gioia Tauro in the Calabria region to receive Syrian chemical agents, including mustard gas, despite fierce opposition from local officials who slammed the move as undemocratic.
"The government has chosen the port of Gioia Tauro as particularly appropriate," Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi told lawmakers at a parliamentary hearing on the operation to take place by the beginning of February.
The operation to transfer some 500 tonnes of Syria's deadliest chemicals from a Danish ship to a US vessel is part of a UN-backed plan to destroy the war-torn country's chemical weapons arsenal by June 30.
Lupi said that an estimated 60 containers containing the chemicals, including mustard gas and the ingredients for the nerve agents sarin and VX, would be transferred from one ship to the other using cranes.
"There will be no stocking on land," he said.
But the mayor of Gioia Tauro, Renato Bellofiore, spoke out against the plan following press reports and just before the decision was officially announced.
Italian Foreign Minister "Emma Bonino does not know what democracy is," Bellofiore was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.
"This is very serious. They are putting my life at risk. If anything happens, people will come and get me with pitchforks," the mayor said.
"This is the usual top-down decision," he added. "We are considered second-class citizens."
The mayor of the neighbouring town of San Ferdinando, where most of the port is actually located, said he was "considering a town decree" to shut down the area and prevent the trans-shipment from taking place.