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U.S. removes chemical shells from W. Germany

 
Published Sept. 2, 1990|Updated Oct. 17, 2005

Townspeople cheered and drank sparkling wine as the United States on Saturday removed the last of its chemical weapons in West Germany from the town where the deadly stockpile had been stored for 20 years. The last of 28 convoys carried its load of chemical weapons shells 30 miles from the southwestern town of Clausen, near the Luxembourg border, to Miesau, where they are to be loaded on trains for shipment to a North Sea port.

Altogether 100,000 artillery shells containing Sarin and VX nerve gases have been taken from Clausen to the Miesau depot on their journey from West Germany to destruction at the United States' Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. Army Gen. Dennis L. Benchoff said the chemical weapons should be out of the country within three weeks.

In Clausen, home to the 400-ton chemical weapons stockpile for 20 years, balloons hung from windows and smiling residents filled the main street to toast with sparkling wine.

"Thank you all," said a banner across the street, expressing gratitude to military officials and police for the safe removal of the shells.

The chemical arms had been stored secretly in a forest just outside Clausen since the 1960s.

West Germany and the United States agreed in 1986 to scrap the stockpile but the location was not announced until earlier this year.

The removal operation began under heavy security July 26 after a last-ditch legal bid by environmentalists to stop it failed.

The environmentalists supported the withdrawal of the weapons but said the road and rail shipments across West Germany, through densely populated areas, were hazardous.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.