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Officials Meet to Bolster Weapons Ban

National officials joined representatives of the Japanese government and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Tuesday, for three days of discussions on maintaining a chemical weapons ban.

Cambodia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2005, pledging not to produce, transport or store chemical weapons.

The three-day workshop was aimed to support Cambodia's efforts to follow the Convention.

"In a world where we face an ever-present threat of chemical terrorism, the [Convention] plays an important twin role in both the disarmament and non-proliferation of chemical weapons based on its stringent verification regime," said Em Sam An, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior and vice chairman of the National Chemical Weapons Authority, speaking at the opening of the workshop.

Cambodia's economic stage meant a limited chemical industry now, said Magda Bauta, a leading representative of the OPCW. But rapid economic advances in Cambodia and the region, she said, meant "it will be not too long from now that chemical industries will be established here, which need to be monitored and regulated through a licensing and reporting system."

The transport of chemicals through Asean was likely to increase in coming years, she said, making the role of customs and border security agencies even more important.

Em San An said after the opening ceremony that Cambodia was committed to fighting terrorism in the region, and he reminded reporters that the US had used chemical defoliants in the 1970s with its war in Vietnam.

Many chemicals were dropped from US war planes in Cambodia's northeast, he said, damaging the forests and rivers.