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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

20 October 2006

Covering about 92 per cent of the earth’s surface and some 96 per cent of the world’s chemical industry, the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had proven enormously successful, Rogelio Pfirter, that body’s Director-General, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

He said that, while the organization was totally independent and not technically a part of the United Nations system, it was guided by the same aspiration for peace and security. However, it was far from being a debating society and its work was aimed at producing results. Established nine years ago, following the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the organization comprised 180 member countries, making it the fastest growing body of its kind. Based in The Hague, it had been created to implement that treaty, formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction.

Signed in 1993 in Paris, the instrument had entered into force in 1997 and its agenda was clearly spelt out in the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said. Firstly it was a disarmament agenda. Each member State was mandated to declare if it was in possession of chemical weapons. If so, it must undertake a commitment to destroy all stockpiles by a particular deadline, initially 2007, with an ultimate deadline of 2012. Another part of the organization’s agenda was that of non-proliferation, whereby countries declared industrial facilities in the chemistry business and submitted them to a verification regime. A third pillar was aimed at peaceful advances in the chemistry field and providing assistance and protection in case of a threat or actual use of chemical weapons.

He said six countries had declared their possession of chemical-weapon stockpiles in 1997. The largest possessor States were the Russian Federation and the United States. Others were India, Albania, Libya and another, unidentified, State party. All together, they had declared 71,000 metric tons of chemical stockpiles –- an impressive quantity that was an enormous source of danger to human life around the world. All the possessor countries had made progress in terms of the Convention’s provisions. Destruction had taken place, albeit at a different pace, and they had provided assurances of their political commitment to ensure that destruction took place by 2012 at the latest.

Describing the verification procedure, he said it took place through inspections. The organization inspected facilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some 2,500 inspections had already been carried out, testifying to the fact that the organization was already well established. More than 1,100 inspections had been conducted at industrial sites in 80 countries, and some 5,000 facilities of relevance to the Convention had been identified on a voluntary basis.

While the organization had made enormous progress, significant challenges lay ahead, including financial, human and technical hurdles, he said. The task of disarmament by the deadline was in itself a tall order, while non-proliferation entailed the challenge of inspecting all relevant industrial sites, including the need to stay up to date in terms of technology and science. In order to realize the Chemical Weapons Convention, every member of the international community would have to be brought on board. Having even a single State outside the Convention provided a major loophole that allowed the manufacture of very deadly weapons at the expense of humanity. While a number of non-members were ready to join, there remained a “hard core” of countries that had shown no evidence of moving towards accession.

Despite all efforts to encourage the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to join, that country had not responded; a cause of concern, given allegations of the potential existence of stockpiles in that part of the world. That country’s joining the Convention would represent an enhancement in terms of peace and security.

Another part of the world that had not made progress was the Middle East, he said, noting that Israel, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria remained outside, citing the regional conflict. But there could be no moral, strategic or legal excuse to remain outside the Chemical Weapons Convention, which, given the number of parties to the instrument, was considered international law. It was unfair for a few to maintain the privilege of producing chemical weapons when others had demonstrated transparency.

Asked about the unidentified State party, he said there was nothing sinister about it. It had been agreed on that country’s joining the Organization, it had been agreed that it would not be singled out publicly. It was, in fact, further ahead than the others in terms of destruction, which, there was reason to be confident, would be complete within the Convention’s deadlines.

Responding to a question about his presence in New York, he noted that, while it was independent, the organization was the subject of an annual draft resolution tabled in the General Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security). Though not obliged to report to that body, the organization was happy to keep the Committee informed, as it was at the centre of disarmament issues. The Assembly’s recently adopted Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy also encouraged interaction with the organization.

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For information media • not an official record

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