Africa

Libya's Muammar Gaddafi had chemical weapon cache

Map showing former Libyan Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) facilities

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had an undeclared stockpile of chemical weapons, the body that oversees a global ban on such munitions has said.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said inspectors visited Libya this week.

Among the chemical munitions they found were stocks of sulphur mustard agent, which can cause severe blistering.

Libya's new rulers told the group about the previously unknown stocks last year after removing Gaddafi from power.

"The inspectors verified the declared chemical weapons, which consist of sulphur mustard agent that is not loaded into munitions," the OPCW said.

"At the same time, at the request of the Libyan authorities, the inspectors examined munitions, mainly artillery shells, which they determined are chemical munitions and hence declarable."

Global goal

The OPCW said that all the newly declared materials are being stored at the Ruwagha depot, which it would only say was located in the south-east of the country.

Gaddafi's government had succeeded in destroying 54% of its declared sulphur mustard and about 40% of the precursor chemicals before operations had to be suspended in February 2011 when the destruction facility stopped working, it added.

Libya now had until 29 April 2012 to submit a detailed plan and a date by which the destruction of the materials would be completed, the OPCW added.

According to an international treaty to rid the world of chemical weapons signed by Libya, stocks were supposed to be destroyed by 29 April 2012.

However, delays on action to meet such a goal by other major stockpilers and signatories - including the US and Russia - mean that it is highly unlikely this deadline will be met.

The US has acknowledged it will take as long as 2021 to finish destroying the final 10% of its chemical weapons.

Russia is farther behind in its effort, having destroyed only about 48% of a large cache of chemical weapons, the OPCW has said.

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