Gaddafi's chemical weapons destroyed

Last updated 09:48 05/02/2014
MUAMMAR GADDAFI
Reuters
MUAMMAR GADDAFI: Libya's dictator for 42 years until he was ousted in an uprising-turned-civil war.

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Libya's Foreign Ministry says the country's caches of chemical weapons, including bombs and artillery shells filled with mustard gas, have been destroyed.

"Libya is totally empty of any presence of chemical weapons ... which could pose a threat to the safety of people, the environment, or neighbouring regions," Mohammed Abdel-Aziz said in remarks carried by Libya's state news agency.

The eradication of the weapons, which date from the era of slain dictator Muammar Gaddafi, marks an important success for Libya, even as Syria, its neighbour in the eastern Mediterranean, is struggling to destroy its own chemical weapons hoard amid a civil war.

Under Gaddafi, Libya declared in 2004 it had 25 metric tons of sulfur mustard and 1400 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to make chemical weapons. It also declared more than 3500 unfilled aerial bombs designed for use with chemical warfare agents such as sulfur mustard, and three chemical weapons production facilities.

At the time, Gaddafi was trying to shed his image as an international outcast and restore relations with Western governments by destroying his existing weapons of mass destruction and abandoning aspirations to obtain a nuclear bomb.

By the start of Libya's civil war in 2011, the country had destroyed 55 per cent of its declared sulfur mustard and 40 per cent of the precursor chemicals.

Gaddafi didn't or couldn't use chemical weapons during the fighting. After the revolution, the new government uncovered some additional munitions loaded with mustard gas that hadn't previously been disclosed.

Destruction resumed in early 2013 at a facility in remote Ruwagha, some 600 kilometres south of Tripoli.

The director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which assists countries in verifiably destroying their chemical weapons, said destroying Libya's weapons had been a "major undertaking".

The work was done in "arduous, technically challenging circumstances", OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement, crediting co-operation between Libya and his own organisation, as well as help from Germany and the US.

Preparations will now be made to destroy Libya's remaining precursor chemicals by the end of 2016.

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- AP

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