OPCW works to carry out high-pressure tasks in Syria

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is adapting to its new high-pressure position in the limelight in an effort to safely destroy Syria's chemical weapons program, the U.N. said on Friday.

Franz Ontal, the head of inspector training for the OPCW, said the organization is honored by its recent Nobel Peace Prize win and that its inspectors are well-prepared for both the media spotlight and the hostile environment in Syria. While OPCW inspectors are typically confronted with stress related to hazardous materials, the war-time setting of Syria is adding an additional layer of concern.

The inspectors must carry out the dangerous tasks of handling hazardous materials while wearing helmets and flack vests to protect themselves from flying shrapnel and stray bullets.

"These are two levels of stress that should never meet, but this is the environment in which we are working in Syria," Ontal said.

Up to 100 U.N. and OPCW experts are being deployed as part of a multi-phase operation to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons material and equipment by June 30. Ontal said the joint team will use the spotlight to demonstrate the U.N. and OPCW are capable of carrying out their duties responsibly.

"We are in Syria to do a job," Ontal said. "We want to show that we are not there to take sides. We are impartial and we plan to carry out our work in a professional and transparent manner."

Ontal said he wants to do a good job while getting everybody back home safely.

"This is a tremendous responsibility given to us by the international community and we want to complete it in the safest most effective, efficient and transparent way," Ontal said.