• Thursday, October 23, 2014

Libya 'destroys all chemical weapons'

BBC Online
In an image from the Pentagon, a bomb was moved from a bunker in Libya to be later drained of its chemical agent. This photo was taken from The New York Times website.
In an image from the Pentagon, a bomb was moved from a bunker in Libya to be later drained of its chemical agent. This photo was taken from The New York Times website.

Libya has destroyed all its chemical arsenal, the country's foreign minister has announced.

Mohamed Abdelaziz said that this included bombs and artillery shells filled with mustard gas.

In 2004, Libya said it had 25 tonnes of sulphur mustard and several thousand unfilled aerial bombs for use with chemical warfare facilities.

Tripoli has committed itself to getting rid of all its chemical arms by signing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

'SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE'

"Libya has become totally free of usable chemical weapons that might present a potential threat to the security of local communities, the environment and neighbouring areas," Abdelaziz said on Tuesday in the capital Tripoli.

He added that this "would not have been possible in such a short time" without international support, including technical assistance from Canada, Germany and the US.

Libya's foreign minister said the process was completed on 26 January.

Abdelaziz was speaking a joint news conference with Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Uzumcu - who had visited the site in Ruwagha where the chemical weapons were destroyed last week - described the move as a "significant milestone" for Libya.

He added that it was a "good example of international co-operation now emulated in Syria on a larger scale".

The process began 10 years ago under the then Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, when Tripoli joined the CWC.

Gaddafi's government had succeeded in getting rid of 54 percent of its declared sulphur mustard and about 40 percent of the precursor chemicals before operations had to be suspended in February 2011 when the destruction facility stopped working.

Gaddafi was ousted from power later that year, and the country's new rulers then told OPCW inspectors about the previously undeclared chemical stocks.

The arsenal destroyed by Libya falls under "Category 1 chemical weapons", the OPCW said.

The organisation says such materials "have been used as chemical weapons in the past and/or have very few or no peaceful uses, and thus pose the most direct threat" to the CWC.

It added that the destruction of chemical precursors - Category 2 chemicals - was to be completed by Libya by December 2016.

Precursors are defined as "chemicals involved in production stages for toxic chemicals". Most of these chemicals "have some industrial uses".

The OPCW is an independent international organisation which works with the UN to monitor the 1997 convention banning the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.

Published: 11:24 am Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Last modified: 9:54 pm Wednesday, February 05, 2014

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