OSLO, Norway - Recalling the "burning, blinding and suffocating" horrors of chemical weapons, the head of a watchdog trying to consign them to history accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Tuesday, as prize winners in medicine, physics and other categories also took their bows.
Ahmet Uzumcu, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said such toxic tools of warfare have an "especially nefarious legacy," from the trenches of World War I to the poison gas attacks in Syria this year.
"You cannot see them. You cannot smell them. And they offer no warning for the unsuspecting," Uzumcu said as he collected the $1.2 million award on behalf of the group.
"And we only need to look at the fate of the survivors of such attacks - people destined to spend the rest of their lives suffering unbearable physical and psychological pain - to understand why such weapons must be banned," he added.
The OPCW was formed to enforce a 1997 international convention outlawing chemical weapons. It worked largely out of the limelight until this year, when it received its most challenging mission to date: overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.
The Nobel Peace Prize was announced on Oct. 11, just days before Syria officially joined the OPCW as its 190th member state.
"It is, of course, a huge challenge for the OPCW to manage to destroy all these weapons under the conditions of war and chaos prevailing in the country," Nobel committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said. "The anonymous inspectors from the OPCW do an extremely important and difficult job."
Both Jagland and Uzumcu paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with F.W. de Klerk in 1993. Mandela was also honored at the separate ceremony for other Nobel Prizes in Stockholm later Tuesday.
Jagland called on the United States and Russia to speed up the elimination of their own stockpiles.