[JURIST] Rogelio Pfirter [official profile], director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [official website] has urged [press release] North Korea and several Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, to join the Chemical Weapons Convention [materials] and destroy their weapon stockpiles. Speaking to the UN General Assembly Friday, Pfirter said that all nations must join the convention, otherwise a "major loophole" is created that undermines efforts to contain deadly weapons. So far 180 nations [OPCW list] have signed on to the convention since it was created in 1997. Under the convention, banned weapons, including nerve and mustard gases, must be destroyed by June 2007, though countries may apply for a five year extension. Another six countries [OPCW list], Israel among them, have signed the convention but have not yet ratified, leaving nine countries [OPCW list] that have not signed. These include the nations Pfirter named as a "hard core" of countries resisting the convention, as well as Angola, Barbados, Iraq, Montenegro and Somalia.
This refusal follows the October 14 imposition of sanctions on North Korea [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council in response to the country's nuclear testing. Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon have pointed to regional conflicts as the source of their reluctance to ratify or join the convention, despite in the Middle East and other war zones. Reuters has more. The UN News Service has additional coverage.