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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK
Russian plea on chemical weapons
Russian chemical weapons factory
Russia has an chemical arsenal of 40,000 tonnes
By Geraldine Coughlan in the Hague

Senior Russian officials have appealed for international assistance in destroying stockpiles of chemical weapons.

At a meeting in Netherlands of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), representatives of the Russian Federation said more help was needed from the donor countries if Russia is to honour its commitments to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal by the end of the decade.

Russia says it is willing but not yet able to destroy its chemical weapons stock piles.

The Russian Federation's arsenal of 40,000 tonnes of chemical weapons will cost an estimated $6bn to destroy.

Since signing the Chemical Weapons Convention three years ago, Russia has been unable to get rid of any of its stockpiles despite financial assistance from seven donor countries including the United States.

At Friday's meeting, joint venture proposals to construct four chemical weapons conversion projects were put forward.

Joint ventures

Since last year, Russia has been trying to attract foreign investors to join partnership projects in the chemical industry by offering tax and customs benefits. But so far, progress has been slow.

The OPCW says it is unrealistic to hope that Russia will be able to channel its limited resources into chemical weapons destruction.

Some countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom and Canada, say they are ready to help Russia in this process but the extent of this help could depend on how much support Vladimir Putin lends to chemical weapons conversion after he is sworn in as president in May.

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