NBC Weapons: March 8, 2004


A Libyan official has handed over more than a dozen folders with details about Libya's chemical weapons arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). These files detailed an inventory including one chemical weapons production site and thousands of tons of precursors that could be used to make sarin nerve gas, as well as two storage facilities (near Tripoli and in the south) along with around 22 tons of mustard gas stockpiles.

The US State Department is sending a senior official to  visit to Libya later this month. This is probably the highest-level U.S. visit in more than three decades. Even the human rights group Amnesty International was pleased with its first visit to Libya in 15 years, which included a meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Quaddafi. However, they did detail a number of serious human rights violations (including the disappearance of prisoners and intolerance of political activity). 

A week before, Libya had announced it would begin destroying more than 3,300 unfilled chemical bombs, under the supervision of outside inspectors. An inspection team from OPCW arrived in Libya on February 27, to verify Libya's destruction of its arms stockpile. The OPCW has been waiting for the Libyan documents before forming a plan to destroy the remainder of the stockpile and any related facilities.

Colonel Quaddafi wants to be seen as a unifying consensus builder and peacemaker for Africa and Libya has huge oil reserves that could be tapped more efficiently if restrictions on the country were lifted. US sanctions on Libya include a ban on imports of Libyan crude oil dating to 1982 and expanded sanctions in 1986 included a ban on direct trade, commercial contracts, and travel-related activities (that forced at least three US oil companies out of the country). 

By destroying stockpiles of weapons once meant to support a Soviet Rapid Deployment Force and courting various human rights groups, Quaddafi's move for international absolution may shake out in everyone's best interests. - Adam Geibel


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