Inspectors to check new Libya chemical weapons

AP News
Posted: Nov 04, 2011 10:05 AM
Inspectors to check new Libya chemical weapons

The organization that oversees the global ban on chemical weapons said Friday it will work with Libya's new rulers to "verify and destroy" possible chemical weapons hidden from international inspectors by Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement that Libyan authorities informed it earlier this week of suspected chemical weapons caches beyond the stockpiles earlier declared by Gadhafi.

The organization known by its acronym OPCW also said it has sent a team of inspectors to Libya for the first time since February and they reported that none of Gadhafi's known chemical arsenal was plundered during the civil war that toppled the former dictator.

The inspectors, "confirmed that the full stockpile of undestroyed sulfur mustard and precursors remains in place," at a storage depot in southeastern Libya, the organization said. "The inspectors also took further measures to ensure the integrity of the stockpiles until destruction operations can resume under OPCW verification."

It is not yet clear when the destruction will get under way again.

Libya declared in 2004 it had 25 metric tons of sulfur mustard and 1,400 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to make chemical weapons. It also declared more than 3,500 unfilled aerial bombs designed for use with chemical warfare agents such as sulfur mustard, and three chemical weapons production facilities.

At that time, Gadhafi was trying to shed his image as an international outcast and restore relations with Western governments, pledging not only to dismantle his chemical weapons program but also to abandon ambitions for Libya to become a nuclear weapons power.

By February, when destruction was halted by a technical breakdown, the country had destroyed 55 percent of its declared sulfur mustard and 40 percent of the precursor chemicals.

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However, while Libya appeared to be complying with its international obligation to destroy its entire stockpile, it now appears that Gadhafi had other chemical weapons he never declared.

Libya says it has uncovered "what are believed to be chemical weapons," the OPCW said. "The OPCW will continue to work with the Libyan authorities to verify and destroy any newly declared stocks."

OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said Libyan authorities "informally advised us they have identified additional sites they believe are chemical weapons material." He did not elaborate on the kind or quantity of the suspected weapons.