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Chemical weapons watchdog wins Nobel Peace Prize

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The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a UN-backed group overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. The prize will be awarded in Oslo on December 10.

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The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), recently thrust into the international spotlight after being tasked with destroying Syrian chemical weapon stocks, won the 2013 Nobel Prize for peace on Friday.

"Recent events in Syria have underlined efforts to do away with such weapons," the Nobel Prize committee said in announcing the prize. "By picking the OPCW the committee is seeking to contribute to the destruction of chemical weapons".

The Nobel Committee picked the OPCW for the top peace award, despite wide speculation that Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for fighting for girls' rights to education, would take the award.

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK announced the laureate about one hour before the prize was officially announced. The television company also correctly called last year's winner, the European Union, ahead of schedule.

Set up in 1997 to eliminate all chemical weapons worldwide, the OPCW’s work has gained critical importance in recent months, especially after a sarin gas strike in the suburbs of Damascus killed more than 1,400 people in August.

Under a Russian-US deal struck in September, Syria must render useless all weapon production facilities by November, a process that is now underway.

The OPCW, which has 189 member states, said Syria was cooperating and that the country could eliminate its chemical weapons by mid-2014, provided it received support from all sides in its civil war.

The Nobel Prize committee on Friday urged countries that had not yet become signatory members of OPCW to join the group.

The OPCW has a staff of about 500 people and an annual budget of under $100 million.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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