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Panama hopes U.S. will clean up chemical weapons it left on islandy

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Panama wants US to remove chemical weaponsEven as the United States presses for the rapid destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, a dispute lingers over unexploded chemical munitions that U.S. soldiers left on a Panamanian island more than 60 years ago.

Panama has pressed the United States for decades to remove them, and now it’s optimistic that the Obama administration has agreed.

But the administration itself is less definitive about whether an agreement has been struck to clean up the ordnance that litters San Jose Island, 60 miles into the Pacific from Panama City, the nation’s capital.

The World War II-era chemical munitions are known to include phosgene and mustard gas, and may include other toxic chemical agents. From 1945 to 1947, a contingent of U.S. soldiers tested chemical weapons on the then-deserted island, leaving behind at least eight unexploded 500- and 1,000-pound bombs.

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