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Chemical arms watchdog wins Nobel Peace Prize

OPCW, currently overseeing destruction of Syria's weapons arsenal, to be presented $1.25m prize on December 1 in Oslo.

Last Modified: 12 Oct 2013 09:42
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The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is overseeing the destruction's of Syria's arsenal, has won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, in announcing the award on Friday, said the global chemical-weapons watchdog, working to destroy Syria's massive chemical-weapons stockpile, had "underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons.''

The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law,'' the committee said.

The $1.25m prize will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

NRK, Norway's public broadcaster which has a strong track record leaking the names of winners, reported the OPCW's victory more than an hour before the official announcement.

Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a chemical weapons specialist consultant, said the OPCW deserved the award, for its work in Syria.

"This is a fantastic award for the OPCW, but things are hinged at a very crucial time in Syria," he told Al Jazeera over phone from Gaziantep in Turkey.

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut, said that news of this award is unlikely to go down well with Syrians "because more people have been killed [there] by regular weapons than chemical weapons".

Syria mission

Inside Story - Syria: Chemical warfare?

About 19 OPCW arms experts and 16 UN logistics and security personnel are in Syria and have started to destroy weapons-production facilities, with footage of their work broadcast on Syrian television.

Under a Russian-US deal brokered last month, Syria must render useless all production facilities and weapons filling equipment by November.

Its entire chemical weapons programme must be destroyed by June 30, 2014.

Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW head, said on Wednesday in the Hague, Netherlands, that the timeline in Syria "is extremely tight", but argued that the deadlines, including the destruction of all production facilities by November 1, were not unrealistic.

"If we can ensure cooperation by all parties, and if some temporary ceasefires could be established in order to permit our experts to work in a permissive environment, I think the targets could be reached," he said.

Uzumcu said Syrian officials had been "quite cooperative" in the early stages of the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

Syria submitted a declaration of its chemical weapons arsenal to the OPCW last month, but the details have not been disclosed.

"Much depends on the situation on the ground, that's why we have urged all parties in Syria to be cooperative," Uzumcu said.

"The elimination is in the interest of all."

Inspectors have already visited two chemical sites, with some weapons already destroyed.

"There are 20 sites to be visited in the coming weeks," Uzumcu said.

498

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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