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Israel, others urged to join arms treaty

The OPCW says Angola, Myanmar and South Sudan will join a chemical weapons treaty.

The headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, The Netherlands. Picture: AFP.

OSLO - Israel, Egypt and North Korea should renounce chemical weapons, especially after Syria joined the convention banning them and three other nations plan to do so, the chief of an international watchdog said on Tuesday.

Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Head of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Angola, Myanmar and South Sudan were preparing to join the pact.

"Now since Syria has become a member country, I think [Israel] can reconsider," Uzumcu told Reuters in Oslo, where he accepted the 2013 Nobel award for the OPCW.

Israel, which has observer status at the OPCW, signed the convention in 1993, but has never ratified it.

As with its presumed nuclear arsenal, Israel has never publicly admitted having chemical weapons. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in September that Israel would be ready to discuss the issue when there was peace in the Middle East.

"I don't see any excuse for not joining the convention," Uzumcu said. "Three [nations] are very close to membership and I hope the others will reconsider their positions."

The OPCW's mission gained critical importance this year after a sarin gas attack outside Damascus in August killed hundreds of people, exacerbating a 2-1/2-year-old conflict in Syria in which more than 100,000 have died.

Syria then agreed under a deal arranged by the United States and Russia to destroy all of its 1,300 metric tons of sarin, mustard gas and other lethal agents, averting US missile strikes.

"The only consolation is that those attacks led to renewed efforts by the international community to eliminate them," Uzumcu said, referring to chemical weapons around the world.