Russia meets chemical weapons experts in bid to destroy stockpiles

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The Independent Online
<preform>Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov met the international chemical weapons watchdog today, as Moscow was formulating a new programme for destroying huge stockpiles of outlawed weaponry.Ivanov said he held a general discussion with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but declined to disclose details of the revised plan for dismantling weapons plants and whittling down stockpiles.Russia has said it needs international financing for the expensive destruction process &#150; estimated to cost US$7 billion. Russian experts say it could take 15&#150;30 years to destroy the entire ton stockpile.OPCW officials said Russia has the world's largest stockpile, about 40,000 tons, compared with 30,000 for the United States.Ivanov said his 30&#150;minute meeting with Secretary General Jose Bustani included a discussion on "the general political framework" for destroying the weapons.Ivanov told reporters Russia was negotiating financing with the Netherlands, Italy and other countries. "It is our common interest to destroy those masses of chemical weapons."He was to meet later with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok and government officials before traveling on to France.</p></preform>

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