TEHRAN, Oct. 12 (MNA) – The global chemical weapons watchdog won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a relatively small organisation with a modest budget, dispatched experts to Syria after a sarin gas attack near Damascus in August.
 
Their deployment, supported by the United Nations, helped avert a U.S. strike against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Nobel Peace Prize committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said the award was a reminder to nations such as the United States and Russia to eliminate their own large stockpiles, “especially because they are demanding that others do the same, like Syria”.
 
“We now have the opportunity to get rid of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction...That would be a great event in history if we could achieve that,” he said.
 
Members of the Hague-based OPCW team themselves came under sniper fire on August 26.
 
Human Rights Watch said this week rebels had killed at least 190 civilians in Latakia province in August.
 
On Friday, government forces were trying to regain control of the area around the town of Safira, about 20km southeast of Aleppo. The town, controlled by rebels including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is right next to a major suspected chemical weapons site.
 
Friday's award marks a return to the disarmament roots of the prize after some recent awards including the European Union last year and U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009.
 
Those awards led to criticism that the committee was out of line with the spirit of the prize, founded by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite.
 
His 1895 will says the prize should go to one of three causes - “fraternity between nations”, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.
The process of destroying chemical weapons can be hazardous and is costly. The chemicals can be burnt, but with care not to disperse poisonous toxins, or chemically neutralized. UN head Ban Ki-moon said this week the chemicals would be 'dangerous to handle, dangerous to transport and dangerous to destroy”.
 
“Chemical weapons are horrible things and they must never be used and that contributes not just to disarmament, but to strengthening the humanity within us,” Malik Ellahi, political adviser to the OPCW director general, told Reuters.
“It has always been our position, that quintessentially we work for peace. Not just for peace, we work to strengthen humanitarian norms.”
 
The Hague-based OPCW was set up in 1997 to implement a 1992 global Chemical Weapons Convention to banish chemical arms and most recently helped destroy stockpiles in Iraq and Libya. It has about 500 staff and an annual budget under $100 million.
 
The United States and Russia had committed to destroying their arsenals by 2012 but have as yet failed to do so.
 
OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu told Norway's NRK television: “I am sure...(the prize) will give encouragement to our staff to demonstrate more what they could do in terms of contributions to global peace and security.”
 
He said 80 percent of stockpiles under the oversight of the OPCW, excluding Syria, had already been disposed of.
“Still, 20 percent will have to be destroyed,” he said.
 
Chemical weapons can inflict considerable suffering and death, with choking, chemical burns and convulsions, and can be dispersed easily by winds and affect civilian populations. They were widely used in World War One. More recently, in 1998, 5,000 people were gassed to death by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the town of Halabja.

 

MNA

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News Code 100034

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