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Chemical Weapons Watchdog OPCW Welcomes Nobel Peace Prize Win

posted 11 Oct 2013, 08:14 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 11 Oct 2013, 08:15 ]

Global chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, is a "worthy" recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a delegate says, as the U.N.-backed team continue working to eliminate chemical weapons stockpiles around the battlefields of Syria's civil war.

THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (OCTOBER 11, 2013) (REUTERS) -  The global chemical weapons watchdog charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (October 11).

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) welcomed the prestigious award, while reiterating the challenges that lie ahead.

"The OPCW is worthy to get this prize. It means it did well in the past and it has great challenge in the future," said Chinese OPCW delegate Tang Cheng, who spoke to Reuters outside the OPCW headquarters in The Hague.

The relatively small organisation of 500 with a modest annual budget under $100 million dispatched its experts after a sarin gas attack in Syria killed more than 1,400 people in August. It is carrying out its work despite Syria's ongoing civil war.

Their deployment, supported by the United Nations, helped avert a U.S. strike against PresidentBashar al-Assad.

Video obtained from social media websites following the August 21 attack showed bodies including those of children and victims choking with no sign of outward injury.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the cause of death and injury shown in the video.

Still images showed survivors at a mosque where they were seen sprawled out on the floor and vomiting.

Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said the award was a reminder to nations with big stocks of chemical weapons, such as the United States and Russia, to get rid of their own reserves.

The inspection and destruction of chemical weapons continues, with a team of 27 in the field, Assad forces and rebels press clash across the country with conventional weapons. Human Rights Watchsaid this week rebels had killed at least 190 civilians in Latakia province in August.

On Friday, Syrian government forces were trying to regain control of the area around the town ofSafira, about 20km southeast of Aleppo. The town, which is controlled by rebels including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is right next to a major suspected chemical weapons site.

The OPCW, which has 189 member states, said Syria was cooperating and it could eliminate its chemical weapons by mid-2014, provided they received support from all sides in its civil war.

Experts believe Syria has roughly 1,000 tonnes of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas, some of it stored as bulk raw chemicals and some of it already loaded onto missiles, warheads or rockets.