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MOSCOW, October 31 (Itar-Tass) —— The Gaddafi regime in Libya could have up to 11 tonnes of yperite and it is not clear who controls it now, an expert said.
“In May of this year, in the midst of the war in Libya, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that Libya requested a new schedule for the disposal of chemical weapons,” Anatoly Yegorin, leading researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Monday, October 31.
The previous deadline for the disposal of chemical weapons in Libya “expired on May 1, and it was hardly possible to meet it because of the NATO armed operation against the Jamahiriya”, he said.
According to the OPCW, “Libya had destroyed 55 percent of its yperite stockpiles by March” which means that “Gaddafi could still have 11.25 tonnes of this toxic agent but he resisted the temptation to use it one way or another”, Yegorin said.
Libya joined the OPCW in 2004 when relations between Tripoli and Western capitals had thawed. On February 20, 2004, the country submitted to the OPCW an initial partial declaration on its stockpiles of toxic agents. “It was then that the U.S. and its allies made the Jamahiriya an example for other pariah states to follow,” the official said.
Libya was not the only country that had failed to meet the original OPCW deadlines for disposal of chemical weapons. “Let us recall that on December 11, 2006, the OPCW made the decision to give extra time to some countries for the destruction of their stockpiles of combat toxic agents. In addition to Libya, the list also included the United States, India and Russia. It was initially expected that Libya should destroy its combat toxic agents by April 29, 2007. But because of the delay, the OPCW moved the deadline to December 2010,” Yegorin said.
“The main question now is who controls the stockpiles of Libyan combat toxic agents. The National Transitional Council claims that it keeps the situation under control. However the Council is too heterogeneous an organisation. Who can guarantee that combat toxic agents won’t be stolen from Gaddafi’s depots as man-portable air-defence systems were stolen by rebels” Two shipments of MANPADs, mostly likely originating in Libya, were seized in neighbouring Egypt,” the expert said.
National Transitional Council Head Mahmoud Jibril confirmed on Sunday, October 30, that Libya has chemical weapons. He said foreign inspectors would come to Libya this week to investigate the matter.
Jibril stressed that the new Libya would be a peace-loving country and keeping chemical weapons would not be in its interests, adding that international organisations were dealing with this issue.
However he did not name them. Nor did he give any details regarding the discovery of a depot with chemical weapons.
Chemical weapons were found in Libya last week by NTC troops and taken under guard. The Council said these were weapons from the Muammar al-Gaddafi era.