Global Chemical Weapons Watchdog Wins 2013 Nobel Peace Prize

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The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemicals weapon arsenal has won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. 

Set up in 1997 to eliminate all chemicals weapons worldwide, its mission gained critical importance this year after a sarin gas strike in the suburbs of Damascus killed more than 1,400 people in August.

"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," the Nobel Prize Committee's statement said.

The statement went on to recall the organization's role in Syria. "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons. Some states are still not members of the OPCW. Certain states have not observed the deadline, which was April 2012, for destroying their chemical weapons. This applies especially to the USA and Russia."

The OPCW is the body that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons. Israel is a signatory to, but has not ratified, the convention, along with Myanmar. States that have neither signed nor acceded to the convention are Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan. Since the U.S-Russia brokered deal to dismantle its chemical cache, Syria is in the process of becoming a party to the convention. 

The committee said it gave the award to the organization for "its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons." At the prize-giving ceremony, asked whether OPCW was given the prize for its work in Syria, the committee said it was awarded because of its long standing work.

Washington blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad for the attack, a charge he denied, instead blaming rebels. Facing the threat of a U.S. military strike, eventually he agreed to destroy Syria's sizeable chemical weapons program and allow in OPCW inspectors.

The $1.25 million prize will be announced at 0900 GMT. It 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.

The OPCW, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, has about 500 staff and an annual budget of under $100 million.

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.

Chemical weapons experts believe Syria has roughly 1,000 tons 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.

Under a Russian-U.S. deal struck last month, Syria must render useless all production facilities and weapons-filling equipment by November, a process begun over the past several weeks.

The organization is the 25th organization to win the prize since its establishment, the first being the Institute of International Law in 1904. Last year, the European Union was awarded the prestigious prize.

Earlier this month the Nobel Prize committee awarded the The Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs, The Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and The Nobel Prize in Literature to Alice Munro.

Headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, in The Hague, Netherlands, Sept. 27, 2013 file photo.Credit: AP
In this file photo released Saturday Aug. 31, 2013 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, samples brought back by UN inspectors from Syria are shown upon arrival in The Hague.Credit: AP
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons' (OPCW) Malik Ellahi, Ahmet Uzumcu, Wang Ju, Nihad Alihodzic and Dominique Anelli attending a news conference in The Hague, October 9, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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