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OPCW gets Nobel Peace Prize, 'pleasantly surprised'
Friday October 11, 2013 10:56 PM, IANS

The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was Friday awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons", the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced. The world's chemical watchdog said it is "pleasantly surprised" at the recognition.

"The recognition that the peace prize brings will spur us to untiring efforts, even stronger commitment and greater dedication," OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement, adding that his organisation was "pleasantly surprised" by the news.

"I truly hope that this award and the OPCW's ongoing mission, together with the United Nations in Syria will help broader efforts to achieve peace in that country," Xinhua quoted him as saying in the statement.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the OPCW "for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons".

Stating that disarmament figured prominently in Alfred Nobel's will, the committee stated that it had, through numerous prizes, underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons.

"By means of the present award to the OPCW, the committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons," a committee press release stated.

During World War I, it said, chemical weapons were used to a considerable degree. The Geneva Convention of 1925 prohibited the use, but not the production or storage, of chemical weapons.

During World War II, chemical means were employed in Hitler's mass exterminations. Chemical weapons have subsequently been put to use on numerous occasions by both states and terrorists. In 1992-93, a convention was drawn up prohibiting the production and storage of such weapons. It came into force in 1997.

Since then, The Hague-based OPCW has, through inspections, destruction and by other means, sought the implementation of the convention. In all, 189 states have acceded to the convention till date, the press release added.

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

In his remarks, Uzumcu stressed that the ongoing events in Syria were a "tragic reminder", and that much work "remains to be done".

"Our hearts go out to the Syrian people who were recently victims of the horror of chemical weapons. Today we are engaged in work which is meant to ensure that this atrocity is not repeated," he said.

Even under ideal conditions, destroying chemical weapons is always a tricky and difficult process.

Fulfilling that task in a country embroiled in a violent conflict like Syria would be immensely more difficult, the director-general admitted.

"Never in the history of our organisation have we been called on to verify a destruction programme within such short time-frames and in an ongoing conflict. We are conscious of the ongoing trust that the international community has given us," he said.

The OPCW had announced Tuesday that it would deploy a second team of inspectors to verify the dismantling of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons.

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