APphoto_ Chemical Weapons Syria

Workers in Portsmouth, Va., unload equipment Thursday from the Cape Ray, which will serve as the lynchpin for the international efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. British officials announced Friday that their nation would destroy 165 tons of Syrian chemicals. (Steve Helber / Associated Press / December 19, 2013)

LONDON – Britain will help eliminate Syria’s chemical stockpile by taking and destroying 165 tons of substances that could be used to make highly toxic nerve agents, British officials said Friday.

The industrial-grade chemicals are to be shipped to Britain in securely sealed containers, then transferred to a commercial facility and incinerated there, the government said.

By themselves, the chemicals, known as “B precursors,” are not very dangerous, officials said. Only when combined with other specific substances known as “A precursors” do they create a poisonous nerve agent. As a precaution, the two types of chemicals are being removed from Syria and destroyed separately.

Since Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed in September to a deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia to give up his chemical arsenal by the middle of next year, finding countries willing to take and neutralize portions of the stockpile has been a tough task.

Some of the most hazardous substances are to be destroyed by the United States at sea, because they are considered too dangerous to import into any country. China pledged this week to provide a military ship to help protect the American vessel charged with destroying those chemicals.

Britain said Friday it would send one of its own naval vessels to guard the Danish and Norwegian cargo ships that will remove Assad’s stockpile from Syria.

“The international mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program is essential to ensure that Assad can never again use these horrific weapons to murder his own people,” the British government said in a statement.

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