BEIRUT: Caretaker Environment Minister Nazem Khoury dismissed media reports Monday that Syria’s chemical weapons would be buried in Lebanon, saying his ministry would strongly oppose such a policy.
“This news is false. I became certain of this when I called caretaker Prime Minister [Najib] Mikati, who said to me: ‘I know nothing at all about this issue,’” Khoury told a news conference at the Environment Ministry in Beirut.
“Lebanon categorically opposes such a policy and the Environment Ministry will totally reject [the demand if it’s brought up],” he added.
Khoury said that Lebanon was not equipped to bury chemical weapons in its territories.
“Chemical weapons are not buried normally. They have to be incinerated at 1,100 degrees Celsius, and there is not enough expertise in Lebanon to see this process through,” Khoury added.
International experts went ahead with plans to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal earlier this month, in line with a Russian-American deal struck in September.
Media reports emerged over the weekend of plans to bury some of Syria’s chemical weapons in Lebanon.
Khoury said toxic waste had been buried in the district of Kesrouan during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War. To avoid this, Lebanon issued a decree to export such wastes in 1997.
“We still do not know if they were exported [out of Lebanon] or if they are still [in the country],” Khoury said.
Khoury questioned how Lebanon could ever agree to burying Syria’s chemical weapons in its territories as this would run contrary to the disassociation policy, distancing it from events in the war-torn country.
“For sure this will not happen. The waste and pollution present in Lebanon are enough. Lebanon can’t endure any more pollution,” Khoury said. “We will fight pollution and improve our environment, waters and lands.”