- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TRIPOLI, LIBYA The potential proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons in Libya after six months of civil war is a “key concern” for the United States, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

The conflict that ended Moammar Gadhafi’s 42-year rule and sent the former dictator into hiding also threw open the gates to his regime’s extensive armories.

The country’s new leaders, who are struggling to establish a government, have failed to secure many of the weapons caches. Witnesses have watched looters, former rebel fighters or anyone with a truck carry them away.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman told reporters in Tripoli that Washington already has people working with Libya’s new rulers about the possible proliferation of shoulder-fired missiles, as well as dangerous chemicals like mustard gas.

“This is certainly an issue we are concerned with, the Libyan officials are concerned with, because it poses potential risks not only to Libyans, but to the region as a whole,” said Mr. Feltman, who was in Tripoli for talks with the former rebels’ National Transitional Council.

Journalists and human rights groups have discovered huge weapons depots around Tripoli since the former rebels swept into the capital Aug. 21.

Many of the sites are poorly guarded and already have been looted of mines, mortars and even shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles designed to bring down airplanes, helicopters and drones.

The greatest concern, however, is the proliferation of unconventional weapons, such as mustard gas and other chemical agents.

Despite worries about other weapons, Mr. Feltman said “to the best of our knowledge” stores of mustard gas are contained “in bulk form accountable to the OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], and we believe from monitoring that they are where they are supposed to be.”

Last week, the U.N. chief weapons watchdog said Libya’s remaining chemical weapon stockpiles are believed to be secure.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the OPCW, said his inspectors left the country in February when the uprising started and will return “when the conditions allow us.” He added that he had heard from sources that the “remaining stockpiles of chemical weapons are secured.” He did not identify his sources.

In 2004, Col. Gadhafi agreed to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction, and his regime underscored its commitment by using bulldozers to crush 3,300 unloaded bombs that could have been used to deliver chemical weapons.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide