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Nobel Prize Money Boosts Chemical Arms Group Seeking Syria Funds

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) director-general Ahmet Uzumcu speaks during a press conference in The Hague on Oct. 11, 2013. Photographer: Bas Czerwinski /AFP via Getty Images

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which must come up with money to pay for finding and monitoring Syria’s chemical weapons, got an unanticipated $1.2 million windfall today.

The intergovernmental chemical arms watchdog agency, based in The Hague, was awarded the 8 million-krona Nobel Peace Prize.

That’s just a fraction of the anticipated cost of implementing the Sept. 27 United Nations Security Council resolution on elimination of Syria’s toxic chemicals arsenal, a project that country’s President Bashar al-Assad said could cost as much as $1 billion.

The OPCW and the UN are still working to estimate costs for the first such operation mounted in the midst of a civil war. More than 100,000 people have died since March 2011 in the Syrian conflict.

The OPCW, with 189 member states, is the lead technical agency on the project to dispose of tons of chemical agents and precursors in Syria by the middle of next year.

The group so far has received more than $8 million in pledges and initial contributions from the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has allocated an initial $2 million to an advance team that arrived in Damascus Oct. 1 to begin the job.

The UN Security Council will soon authorize creation of a joint UN-OPCW mission to oversee all verification and monitoring of chemical weapons elimination in Syria, as proposed by Ban on Oct. 7.

Trust Funds

The UN and the OPCW will set up separate trust funds to finance their activities, Ban said. The UN chief is authorized to allocate as much as $10 million of regular budget funding per year for “unforeseen and extraordinary” expenditures and will continue allocating $2 million a month for the Syria weapons operation until December, UN Under-Secretary-General for Management Yukio Takasu told Bloomberg News on Oct. 9.

The OPCW’s activities regarding Syria will be financed from this year’s $70 million regular budget, aided by contributions from member states, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said yesterday by telephone.

Calculations of total costs for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons by next June 30 won’t be complete until UN and OPCW advance teams in Syria finish initial inspections of chemical weapons arsenals and arms production locations, he said.

“It’s going to be a complicated mapping exercise, and we will have to put that against all the offers we got in cash and in kind and we will have to wait for some weeks to have a detailed plan ready to present,” he said. “By Nov. 15, we should be in a position to offer some broad figures for what all of this is going to cost.”

The UN Security Council resolution requires the Syrian government to complete the destruction of production and mixing equipment by Nov. 1 and for OPCW inspectors to complete surveys of reported arsenals and stockpiles by the same date.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in United Nations at syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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