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17 Jun, 2008 07:07

New chemical weapons destruction plant operational by August

A new facility for destroying chemical weapons in Russia’s Penza region is expected to be operational by August. The new facility is part of Russia's international obligation to destroy all of its chemical arsenal.

Situated about 550 km southeast of Moscow, it is the sixth of seven such sites Russia plans to build.

The new facility will hold about 17% of Russia's declared chemical weapons stockpile – 6,885 metric tonnes of VX, zarin and soman nerve agents.

Russia has the world's biggest stockpile of chemical weapons. In 1997 it declared an arsenal of 40,000 tons of chemical weapons and has until 2012 to get rid of them, under international agreements.

International inspectors will be allowed to monitor the process at the facility.

Russia started chemical disarmament 11 years ago. In 1997 Moscow ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention banning the development, storage and use of arms.

Moscow received over $US 2 BLN in international aid under the Global Partnership Programme set up at the 2002 G8 Summit in Canada. The country planned to eliminate its stock in 10 year's time, but, along with the USA, asked for an extension until 2012.

Signed in 1993 and entered into force on April 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention augments the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for chemical weapons and includes extensive verification measures such as on-site inspections. The convention is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which conducts inspections of military and industrial plants in all of the member nations as well as working with stockpile countries.

Almost all countries in the world have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. As of 19 June 2008, 184 of the 195 states recognised by the United Nations are party to the CWC.