U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Libya's new leaders to quickly secure chemical weapons, nuclear materials and shoulder-fired missiles, some of which have been left unguarded during the eight-month civil war that toppled the Moammar Gadhafi's regime.
Ban said he was encouraged by a pledge from Libya's interim leader, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, to protect the weapons sites. But unsecured stockpiles of missiles and other munitions were still being discovered as recently as late last month, fueling concerns that weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Abdul-Jalil said Libya wants the international community to release more of the billions of dollars in Libyan assets frozen during the war to get the job done. "We have many suggestions on how to locate and control these weapons," he told reporters at a joint news conference with Ban. "However, lack of funds prevents us from doing much at this time."
Earlier this week, Libyan officials said they found two undeclared chemical weapons sites, along with 7,000 drums of raw uranium. Libya under Gadhafi had pledged nearly a decade ago to stop pursuing non-conventional weapons.
Inspectors from the Organization for the Protection of Chemical Weapons were arriving in Libya on Wednesday.
During Libya's civil war, many military sites were left unguarded because of the conflict, exposing them to looting.
Earlier this week, the U.N. Security Council expressed concern about the weapons, including the fate of thousands of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that pose a risk to civil aviation. An unknown number of missiles have disappeared and a senior Libyan border official has reported brisk weapons smuggling from Libya to Egypt.
The Security Council urged Libya to prevent such weapons from reaching terrorists and other armed groups. It also called on Libyan authorities to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles in coordination with international authorities.
Ban said he raised the weapons issue with Abdul-Jalil repeatedly, including on Wednesday. "It is very important that all these materials should be very carefully ... secured," Ban said.
The U.N. has said it is ready to help Libya in its transition to democracy, including police training, preparations for elections and the drafting of a constitution.
"We are here to help," Ban said, praising Libyans for their courage and determination in ousting Gadhafi.
The U.N. chief also reiterated his concern about the bloodshed in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has overseen a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.
"The killing of the Syrian people must stop immediately," Ban said, adding that he had discussed this with Assad. "He has not kept his promises," Ban said of the Syrian leader.
The U.N. says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on the uprising, part of the wave of anti-regime protests that have swept the Arab world this year.
NATO, which rushed to the aid of the Libyans, has no intention of getting involved in Syria, the alliance's chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said earlier this week, as the alliance ended its seven-month air campaign over Libya.