UN urges Libyan authorities to control weapons

AP News
Posted: Oct 31, 2011 4:24 PM
UN urges Libyan authorities to control weapons

The U.N. Security Council urged Libyan authorities on Monday to prevent thousands of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons purchased by Moammar Gadhafi from getting into the hands of armed groups and terrorists following the country's eight-month conflict.

The Russian-drafted resolution adopted unanimously by the council also called on the Libyan government to destroy chemical weapons stockpiles in coordination with international authorities.

Ian Martin, the top U.N. envoy to Libya, told the council last Wednesday that Libya under Gadhafi accumulated the largest known stockpile of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in any non-producing country. While thousands were destroyed during NATO operations, he said the U.N. is increasingly concerned "over the looting and likely proliferation" of these weapons and other munitions, as well as a spate of newly laid mines within the country.

Martin expressed concern over command and control of chemical and nuclear material sites in Libya though he said the interim government's forces appear to be controlling them. He said additional undeclared chemical weapons sites have been located as well.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro said earlier this month that Libya was believed to have about 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles in its arsenals before civil war began in March. He said terrorist groups have expressed interest in obtaining some of the missiles, which "could pose a threat to civil aviation."

Gadhafi was overthrown as Libyan leader in August after anti-government rebels took control of the capital, Tripoli. He was captured and died in the hands of rebels on Oct. 20.

The resolution adopted Monday calls on Libyan authorities "to take all necessary steps to prevent the proliferation of all arms and related materiel of all types, in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles, to ensure their proper custody." It calls on countries in the region "to consider appropriate measures to prevent the proliferation" of these weapons.

The council expressed concern at the proliferation of weapons in the region "and its potential

The Security Council imposed an arms embargo against the Gadhafi government soon after the uprising began and it remains in place. It reminded all countries Monday that they are barred from purchasing or procuring weapons from Libya and from using their aircraft or ships to transport Libyan weapons.

Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Alexander Pankin said the main aim of the resolution is to prevent "a breach of the arms embargo."

The risk of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons "falling into the hands of terrorist groups ... is very high," he said, and there is also a risk to civil aviation flights.

"The Libyan authorities bear the brunt of the burden for this, but the problems require constructive cooperation with Libya's neighboring states and the whole of the international community," Pankin said.

The Security Council resolution expressed concern at the proliferation of weapons in the region "and its potential impact on regional and international peace and security."

The United States has contributed about $40 million toward finding and destroying the surface-to-air missiles and sent weapons experts to the country. It co-sponsored the resolution along with France, Britain, Nigeria and Portugal.