Boris Johnson calls for UN help destroying Libya chemicals

AP News
Posted: Jul 22, 2016 8:17 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In his first address to the United Nations as Britain's foreign secretary, Boris Johnson on Friday praised a Security Council resolution calling on countries to help Libya dispose of its last remaining chemical weapons stocks by shipping them out of the country.

After raising his hand to join the 14 other council members in unanimously adopting the British-drafted resolution, Johnson cited the threat of chemical weapons falling into the hands of extremists as the main reason behind it. He called on the international community to assist in the destruction of the chemical stocks by providing transport out of the country, expertise and financing.

"This resolution marks the beginning of the end of the Libyan chemical weapons program," Johnson said. "We have reduced the risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and fanatics."

After the speech before the Security Council and a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Johnson told reporters he "hugely enjoyed" his first week as a diplomat.

"I've just been privileged to vote in the U.N. Security Council, I never thought I'd do that in my life. I've just voted to take chemical weapons in Libya and put them beyond use," Johnson said.

Libya in 2004 joined the Chemical Weapons Convention which requires chemical weapons be destroyed in country. The proposed resolution would grant an exception to Libya similar to one granted for Syria because of the on-going civil war.

The resolution comes in response to a Libyan request earlier this week that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) help them dispose of the chemicals.

When Libya began destroying its chemical weapons stocks in 2004, it declared that it had 24.7 tons of mustard gas, 1,390 tons of precursor chemicals and over 3,000 bombs containing chemical weapons.

The destruction of chemical weapons was interrupted by the 2011 overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, leaving some 850 tons of precursor chemicals stored at a facility monitored by the OPCW in Ruwagha. Over the weekend, those chemicals were moved to secure location on the Libyan coast to await removal, diplomats said.

The OPCW said Friday it will facilitate and coordinate assistance among contributing countries supporting the destruction of Libya's remaining chemical weapons in the safest and most secure manner.

OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu, welcomed the Security Council resolution and the decision of its executive council to call for international assistance.

"We will work with Libya and those countries able to provide support to ensure that this threat has been permanently eliminated," Uzumcu said.