The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday "for its extensive efforts to eliminate" those arsenals, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

"Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons," Thorbjørn Jagland, the committee's chairman, said.

The committee noted that several countries have not yet ratified the global Chemical Weapons Convention and that others, including the United States and Russia, have not met deadlines to eliminate their stockpiles.

The Hague-based OPCW is the intergovernmental organization responsible for verifying adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997 and has been ratified or acceded to by 190 countries worldwide, most recently Syria.

Chemical weapons use recently made global headlines when hundreds of civilians were killed in an Aug. 21 sarin-gas attack outside Damascus.

The United States and its allies, as well as the Syrian opposition, blamed Syrian government forces for the attack, which took place in the context of that country's civil war, and Washington threatened a "limited" retaliatory strike.

Russia and close ally Syria say anti-government rebels carried out the chemical weapons attack as a provocation.

A U.S.-Russian deal that was approved by the OPCW averted U.S. military action; in exchange, Syria pledged to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpiles.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision surprised much of the media establishment because Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head and neck last year by Taliban gunmen for promoting education for girls in that Muslim country's Swat Valley, was considered the favorite for that prestigious award.

Norway's NRK public television, however, reported Friday morning that the Nobel Committee had decided not to recognize Yousafzai due to her youth, her short list of achievements and the possibility that the award would make her the target of another assassination attempt.

The selection of the OPCW comes a day after Canadian author Alice Munro was named the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in literature.

The winners of the Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics and chemistry were announced earlier this week, while the recipient of the award for economics will be unveiled Monday.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be handed out on Dec. 10 in Oslo, while the remaining winners will receive their awards that same day at a separate ceremony in Stockholm. EFE