The UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are awaiting approval from an unnamed country to use its port to load Syria's deadly chemicals onto a US ship for destruction offshore, the head of the mission Sigrid Kaag has said.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the UN and the OPCW Syria mission, briefed the UN Security Council on Wednesday but refrained from identifying which country she had been in talks with.

"We're still awaiting confirmation by a member state that a port is available for trans-loading," Kaag told reporters after briefing the council.

When asked if the port to be used would likely be in the Mediterranean, she said: "The geographic range is quite significant, so no, not necessarily. At the moment, we're discussing and we're hoping to have early confirmation soon."

Security issues

While plans are in motion to transport the chemical weapons from various sites within the war-torn country to the northern Syrian port of Latakia, there are growing security concerns. 

Sigrid Kaag told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council that "there are factors beyond our control'' which could affect the ambitious schedule to destroy Syria's entire chemical weapons programme by mid-2014.

The highway connecting Damascus and the northern city of Homes en route to Latakia has been the scene of a months-long government offensive against rebels, and Kaag said the real issue would be whether it could be used to transport containers containing chemicals to the port. 

European countries of Italy, Norway and Denmark have offered to transport Syria's chemicals from the northern Syrian port of Latakia with military escorts to help with security efforts.

The chemicals would then be transferred to the US ship at another port where the chemicals would then be transferred aboard a modified US naval vessel. 

Syria's 500 tons of chemicals would then be neutralised offshore with other chemicals through a process known as hydrolysis.

Source: Agencies