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syria chemical weaponsSyria officially joins the United Nations convention banning the use and development of chemical weapons today.

The move comes less than two months after sarin gas was used in an attack near the capital, Damascus.

The UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The organisation won the Nobel Peace Prize last week.

Its mission is expected to continue until at least mid-2014.

The deal over Syria’s chemical weapons was agreed by the United States and Russia after the 21 August attack prompted US threats of air strikes against the Syrian government.

Inspectors who were in the country at the time confirmed that sarin gas was used in the attack.

Under a joint Russian-US proposal, Syria has now committed to destroying its chemical weapons arsenal within nine months.

It is believed to comprise around 1,000 metric tonnes of sarin, mustard and XV nerve agents.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for a peace conference on Syria “very soon” but said peace would not be possible without a transition government to replace President Bashar al-Assad.

“We believe it is urgent to set a day, to convene the conference and work toward a new Syria,” Mr Kerry told reporters after meeting United Nations special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in London.

“We believe that President Assad has lost the legitimacy necessary to be a cohesive force that could bring people together,” he said, adding: “there has to be a transition government in Syria to permit the possibility of peace”.

RTE

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