New 2012 deadline set to rid world of chemical weapons

A body set up to rid the world of chemical weapons agreed on Saturday a new global deadline of 2012, after admitting that Albania is the only country to have completely destroyed its stock.

After 10 days of deliberations at a review conference in The Hague called to reassess its 11-year mission, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) gave itself a new five-year mandate to achieve total disarmament.

"The review conference text was adopted at 5.30am (0330 GMT)," spokesman Michael Luhan told AFP.

The United States, Russia, India and Libya, with some of the largest stockpiles, previously had individual deadlines, some of them earlier than 2012, but have signed up to the revised founding treaty.

"The discussions are difficult, some states are more ambitious, others are more wary," the conference head and Algeria's ambassador in The Hague, Benchaa Dani, told AFP during the conference.

The OPCW said 37 per cent of global chemical agents with military functions have been destroyed alongside a third of all chemical munitions stocks.

The United States has removed half of its arsenal, Russia around a quarter.

The treaty has to-date been ratified by 183 countries representing 98 per cent of the world's population.

Twelve states have yet to sign or ratify, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in the Middle East.

Director-General Rogelio Pfirter told AFP before the conference began that he had "serious hopes" of seeing Lebanon and Iraq sign up "in the near future".

The OPCW – which has conducted over 3,000 inspections in 80 member states since its formation – had yet to establish any communication with North Korea.

Established under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, the OPCW is also charged with monitoring security at industrial chemical productions plants around the world as well as working with states to limit the opportunity for rogue terror groups to launch chemical attacks. (AFP)