From: Reuters
Published April 4, 2008 05:07 AM

New global push sought to scrap chemical weapons

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A treaty verification body called on Friday on 12 nations including Syria, Iraq and Israel to join a landmark pact for destroying stockpiles of chemical weapons.

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons made the appeal ahead of a review conference next week.

So far 183 countries have ratified the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of chemical weapons but more states need to join.

"The convention is only as strong as its weakest link and securing universal adherence remains our most important and difficult challenge," Rogelio Pfirter, the watchdog agency's director-general, said in a statement.

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Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Lebanon are among 12 countries that have yet to ratify the convention, the body said.

It pointed to the tens of thousands of deaths and maimings caused by chemical weapons deployed by Iraq against Iranian forces and Iraqi Kurds during the 1980s.

The watchdog also singled out North Korea which has opted out of the pact.

Several of these countries, including at least one from the Middle East, may sign up in the near future, Pfirter said.

Russia has destroyed nearly a quarter of its stockpile and the United States close to 50 percent under the pact. The two countries have a 2012 deadline to destroy the rest of their stockpiles.

Libya, a signatory to the pact since 2004 after it started emerging from international isolation by agreeing to halt its weapons programs, is expected to destroy its entire stockpile by 2011.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)

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