Chemical Weapons Watchdog Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Oct 11, 2013

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LONDON — The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2013 Peace Prize on Friday to the United Nations body charged with destroying Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.

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In its citation, the committee said: “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.”

It was the second successive year that the panel, based in Oslo, Norway, chose an organization for its accolade. The European Union won the 2012 prize.

Inspectors from the 189-member Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons began arriving in Syria this month after a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21 killed hundreds of people.

The attack initially drew an American threat of military reprisal before Moscow and Washington reached a compromise arrangement to seek the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks under international supervision.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister who is chairman of the panel, said chemical weapons had been used by Hitler’s armies in their campaign of mass extermination and on many other occasions by states and terrorists. He denied that the award to a body based in The Hague represented a eurocentric shift after last year’s award to the European Union.”It’s global,” he said.

The organization, known often by its initials O.P.C.W., was set up in 1997 to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force that year.

The convention has four aims: to seek the destruction of all chemical weapons under international verification; to prevent the creation of new chemical weapons; to help countries protect themselves against chemical attack; and to foster international cooperation in the peaceful use of chemistry.

The identity of the Nobel Peace Prize winner is notoriously difficult to forecast.

Much speculation before Friday’s announcement centered on Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by a Taliban gunman a year ago in retribution for her campaign to promote female education in Pakistan. Another front-runner was said to have been Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who has treated rape victims in the long-running conflict in his native Congo.

But, an hour before Friday’s announcement, the Norwegian public broadcaster forecast that the 2013 prize would go to the O.P.C.W. The broadcaster also correctly tipped the European Union as last year’s winner.

The award is worth $1.25 million and was presented on the anniversary of the death of its founder, the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who established the prize in 1895 in his will. It was the 94th to be awarded since then