- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

THE HAGUE — Libya acknowledged stockpiling 44,000 pounds of mustard gas and disclosed the location of a production plant in a declaration submitted yesterday to the world’s chemical weapons watchdog.

Libyan Col. Muhammad Abu Al Huda handed over 14 file cartons disclosing Libya’s chemical weapons programs to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said Director General Rogelio Pfirter.

The Hague-based agency oversees compliance with the 1993 international treaty banning chemical weapons, which Libya joined last month.

Libya also declared thousands of tons of precursors that could be used to make sarin nerve gas, and two storage facilities, Mr. Pfirter said. The production and storage facilities were near Tripoli and in the south of the country.

The declaration was a major step in Libya’s eliminating its weapons of mass destruction, which it unexpectedly promised in December, hoping to end its international isolation and restore relations with the United States.

In addition to cooperating with the chemical weapons agency, Libya is working with inspectors from the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency to eliminate its nuclear weapons programs.

The White House lifted the ban on Americans traveling to Libya and said it would expand the U.S. diplomatic presence in Tripoli. It also said U.S. companies that were in Libya before the sanctions can begin negotiating their return, pending the end of sanctions.

Mr. Pfirter said the documents handed over by Libya “will allow us to certify that everything declared there will be destroyed and will never be used for any other purpose.”

He added that he believed Libya’s declaration was complete and comprehensive.

In the past week, Libya made the first concrete move to eliminate its stockpiles when it destroyed 3,300 bombs specifically intended to carry chemical payloads.

With international inspectors monitoring the weeklong operation, bulldozers crushed the shell casings to complete the process, which ended Wednesday, the U.N. agency said.

Mr. Pfirter praised Libya’s cooperation with the agency since it ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in January and became a full member of the treaty a month later.

“Not only have they joined the convention, they have been consistent in complying with it in a dynamic form. They have made an enormous effort,” Mr. Pfirter said.

He said the Libyan development program and the production of potential weapons ended in the early 1990s, and the mustard gas had not been weaponized.

“They were tested but not used,” he said.

More than 160 countries are members of the treaty, including the world’s largest possessors of chemical weapons, the United States and Russia. Only a few large countries, including Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia and Syria, have yet to join.

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