Syria Weapons Drills Off Cyprus

Sailors man computer systems aboard the Danish frigate HDMS Esbern Snare which is docked at Cyprus’ Limassol port on Saturday, December 14, 2013. The Danish frigate and the Norwegian warship HNOMS Helge Ingstad will escort Danish and Norwegian cargo ships transporting Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons out of the strife-torn country.(AP Photo/Pavlos Vrionides)

NICOSIA, Cyprus  – A Danish-Norwegian flotilla is preparing to remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the war-torn country by conducting emergency rescue drills off the southern coast of Cyprus.

Flotilla spokesman Eystein Malkenes Kvarving said Dec. 29 the four-ship group is carrying out seaborne drills, including firefighting and ship-to-ship transfers of injured personnel.

Two cargo ships and their warship escorts are waiting at Cyprus’ Limassol port for word on when they can travel to Syria to begin hauling out more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the U.N. said that a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the most toxic chemicals is unlikely to be met. Kvarving said the ships will likely make more than one trip to Syria to pick up all the agents.