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Funds to destroy Syria chemical weapons

New Delhi, Dec. 3: India today offered $1 million (around Rs 6.2 crore) in assistance, and training and research facilities to the United Nations arm responsible for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, ahead of a key conference of leading world nations in Geneva that New Delhi wants to join.

The financial assistance will go to the special Trust Fund set up by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the UN body located at The Hague that has been entrusted with dismantling the chemical armoury of Syrian leader Bashar al- Assad.

“India would also offer the services of its experts to be used by the OPCW in the destruction verification activity as well as training slots for the personnel participating in the UN/OPCW mission for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons,” the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

The offer of assistance comes amid growing concerns over inadequate financial support for the OPCW’s Syria mission and a failure by the US and Russia — that brokered the deal with Syria that has staved off a possible war — to find countries willing to host the destruction of the chemical weapons.

Albania, Belgium, Norway and France — nations that destroyed their own chemical weapons stockpiles in the dying years of the Cold War — have refused to get involved with the Syria mission after domestic protests.

The US has now decided to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons on board a navy ship in the Mediterranean. The OPCW has set a December 31 deadline for the destruction of the weapons.

But India’s assistance is also timed with an eye on the next stage of Syria’s reconciliation process — a conference of the world’s leading powers chaired by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in Geneva on January 22.

Geneva-II, as the conference is being called, will be led by the US and Russia but Britain, France and China are expected to participate. Ban has said he supports Iran’s participation in the conference but the US remains cautious about involving Tehran at the high table of global diplomacy despite their recent attempts at detente.

Russia has proposed that India join the conference and New Delhi, officials said, would like the opportunity to project its global role at a time its efforts to push for a quick expansion of the UN Security Council’s permanent membership are being stymied.