UK to push for watchdog to have extra powers in wake of spy poisoning

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Boris Johnson is expected to call for a chemical weapons watchdog to be given extra powers in the wake of the Salisbury spy poisoning when it meets on Tuesday.

The Foreign Secretary called for the urgent meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to “reaffirm and defend” the ban on the use of toxic warfare.

Backed by allies including the US, France and Germany, Mr Johnson said last month the regulator needed to be strengthened.

Salisbury incident
Up to 100 grams of liquid nerve agent were used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (Ben Mitchell/PA)

The meeting is expected to discuss giving the OPCW extra powers to identify who it believes is responsible for attacks.

Director general Ahmet Uzumcu said in May that unless the organisation was able to name attackers, the use of chemical weapons would not be deterred.

The organisation’s scientists backed British Government analysis that a Novichok nerve agent was used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.

However, they had no mandate to say who they believed carried out the attack, which Britain has blamed firmly on the Kremlin.

Mr Uzumcu said the creation of an “attribution mechanism” within the OPCW could lead to the further politicisation of the organisation, which is made up of nearly 200 member states committed to implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

He said chemical weapons use, whether it occurs in Syria, Iraq or Salisbury, was a “serious wake-up call” for the international community.

Moscow continues to deny being the source of the poison used in the March 4 attack.

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