Watchdog says Libya destroys chemical weapons

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2011 9:38 AM
Watchdog says Libya destroys chemical weapons

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is keeping his word to destroy his chemical stockpile for producing mustard gas and has no weapon to deliver a chemical payload, a U.N. watchdog group said Wednesday.

Reports from Libya say fears that the regime will use chemical or biological weapons are rampant among protesters facing Gadhafi's militias and supporters, and former British Foreign Secretary David Owen said the West should be concerned about that possibility.

"We know that this is a person who could unleash either chemical or biological weapons which he possibly still has," Owen said on BBC radio Wednesday. Gadhafi "is deeply unstable, and has been for 42 years," he said.

But the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons indicated the use of chemical weapons was unlikely.

All Libya's delivery systems _ 3,300 unloaded aerial bombs _ were crushed by bulldozers in 2004 when Gadhafi agreed to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction, said the OPCW, based in The Hague.

Libya destroyed nearly 13.5 metric tons (15 tons) of sulfur mustard last year, about 54 percent of its stockpile. It received an extension to eliminate the rest by May 15, the organization said. Nearly 40 percent of the chemicals used to make sulfur mustard also have been destroyed since 2005, it said.

Twice-yearly inspections have found no evidence of Libya reviving the chemical weapons program.

"So far as we know, Libya gave up the capacity to deliver chemical agents seven years ago," OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan told The Associated Press. "And in the last year we've also seen, after some delays, substantial progress toward destroying their existing stockpile of chemical agent, which is all mustard."

A British government official also said there was little to no fear outside Libya that Gadhafi would use such weapons.

"We worked quite successfully five years ago to make sure the supplies were destroyed. So right now, they have the expertise but not the kit," said the official in London on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work.

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Associated Press writer Paisley Dodds in London contributed to this report