Customs staff trained in prohibiting chemical weapons [Archives:2008/1168/Local News]

June 30 2008

Sana'a, June 28 ) Yemen's National Committee for the Prohibition of Chemical, Biological and Toxic Weapons concluded a three-day workshop Thursday in cooperation with the European Union-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW.

The training targeted some 30 customs staffers, who were lectured on the OPCW's agreement, as well as the national committee's required role in promoting the Customs Authority's efforts to prevent the entry of chemical and biological weapons into Yemen.

The training also discussed the most recent recommendations reached by the World Customs Organization and future amendments due to be made via coordinated efforts.

Opening the training, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi stressed the necessity of enhancing cooperation between Yemen and the OPCW to increase awareness about the risks of these weapons and their entry into various countries, including Yemen.

Al-Qirbi pointed out that organizing such training for customs staff and increasing their awareness about the potential risks of these weapons is a top priority issue, adding that preventing the entry of chemical weapons into Yemen and other countries requires both regional and international cooperation.

According to him, banning the spread of chemical and biological weapons is key to strengthening international security, stability and peace.

“The Customs Authority is one of the most important agencies that should play a key role in designing and establishing any national strategy meant to fight smuggling,” Al-Qirbi said, adding that customs staff must use their available capacities to activate oversight and control at all land, sea and air points of entry.

The foreign minister expects the training to contribute to strengthening the capacity and effectiveness of Yemeni customs staff, as well as help them perform their required duties.

OPCW representative Nunda Danli emphasized the necessity of participants utilizing all of the theoretical lectures given during the training, urging the Yemeni government to provide customs staffers all of the necessary equipment and facilities in order for them to perform well.

Gen. Qasim Abdulsalam Al-Shaibani, the national committee's deputy chairman, noted that the Customs Authority is the legally authorized agency to check and examine goods, equipment and passengers entering or leaving Yemen.

He maintains that this training reflects the Yemeni government's desire to activate the OPCW's Chemical Weapons Prohibition Agreement and enhance Yemeni authorities' capacity to handle border crimes.

At the end of the workshop, OPCW and national committee representatives discussed the official usage of chemical weapons contained in the three tables attached to the agreement. They also discussed the relationship between an organized system, World Customs Organization recommendations and potential amendments to an organized system.

Future activities will discuss general issues faced by import and export licenses and reports, efforts to control consignments and smuggling and the means of chemical weapons transformation.

International cooperation programs in this regard and the Yemeni Customs Authority's role in identifying exported and imported chemical weapons also will be covered in future discussions.

Based on the national committee's recommendations, the Yemeni Customs Authority has dispatched some 270 staffers specialized in chemistry and physics to the nation's border points to prevent the entry of chemical weapons into Yemen, having realized their potential risks to national peace and security.