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Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW wins Nobel Peace Prize

Chemical weapons watchdog OPCW wins Nobel Peace Prize
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The Nobel Peace Prize for 2013 has been awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The announcement was made in Oslo by the head of the Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland.

Much has been heard about chemical weapons inspectors but little about the organisation behind them, that now finds itself thrust into the limelight.

From its base in the Hague, the OPCW has been charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Its Turkish head, Ahmet Üzümcü has spoken of the difficult conditions his inspectors face as they go about their task while the fighting continues.

He has called for temporary ceasefires to allow inspectors to work in a more serene environment and achieve their objectives.

Their mission in Syria follows a chemical attack on a Damascus suburb in August that killed more than 1400 people, including over 400 children.

The Syrian government and rebels blamed each other for the attack.

Under the threat of a US military strike, the government in Damascus later agreed to a US-Russian deal to destroy its chemical programme and allow in inspectors.

The OPCW, which has 500 staff and 189 member states, has said Syria is cooperating and it could eliminate its chemical weapons by mid-2014, provided the organisation receives the support of all sides in the civil war.

The announcement of the most prestigious of Nobel prize winners came as a surprise to some observers. Many had predicted that the award would go to other candidates such as the bookies’ favourite, Malala Yusufzai – the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education.

The Nobel prize will be awarded in Oslo on December 10.