Mayors of Italian towns near the port designated as a transit site for Syrian chemical arsenal said today they would protest at the decision unless they were guaranteed maximum security against any environmental or health risk.
Rosarno Mayor "Elisabetta Tripodi" said "we want to make sure safety measures are at the maximum level and we want the government to better inform us so we can reassure our residents. If we are not better informed, then there will be protests".
The Italian government has chosen Gioia Tauro, the country's biggest container port located in the southern region of Calabria, to move 560 tonnes of Syrian "priority A" chemicals from a Danish ship to an American one.
Mayor Domenico Madaferri of San Ferdinando, the town closest to Gioia Tauro, initially threatened to block the facility while others mayors appeared more flexible. "I'm realistic. I know we cannot block the port whose operations are very important for the local economy", Tripodi told Reuters.
Transport Minister "Maurizio Lupi" and Foreign Minister "Emma Bonino" have both said regional fears are unfounded, noting that around 30,000 tonnes of equally dangerous chemicals passed through the port without incident last year.
Lupi said that "It's only right to involve the mayors, the local administrators and the region" , adding "together we can better guarantee safety".
Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the world's chemical weapons watchdog, has said the entire operation would take no more than 48 hours and that the chemicals would not be stored at the port but only transferred from one ship to another.