By Karl Ritter And Michael Corder ,AP
THE HAGUE — The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for working to eliminate the scourge that has haunted generations from World War I to the battlefields of Syria.
The reaction in Syria to the Nobel decision was notably polarized. A senior Syrian rebel called the award a “premature step” that will divert the world’s attention from “the real cause of the war” while a ruling party lawmaker declared it to be a vindication of President Bashir Assad’s government.
The OPCW was formed in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, the first international treaty to outlaw an entire class of weapons. Based in The Hague, Netherlands, it has largely worked out of the limelight until this year, when the United Nations called on its expertise to help investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
“The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in Oslo. “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.”
Friday’s award comes just days before Syria officially joins as the group’s 190th member state. OPCW inspectors are already on a highly risky U.N.-backed disarmament mission based in Damascus to verify and destroy the government’s arsenal of poison gas and nerve agents amid a raging civil war.
“Events in Syria have been a tragic reminder that there remains much work still to be done,” OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu (AKH’-meht ooh-ZOOM’-joo) told reporters in The Hague. “Our hearts go out to the Syrian people who were recently victims of the horror of chemical weapons.”