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Libya to Receive Iraqi Assistance in Chemical Weapons Disposal

Iraq announced on Thursday that it would support the new Libyan government's efforts to eliminate its predecessor's arsenal of chemical warfare materials, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Feb. 6).

The Iraqi Cabinet intends "to provide necessary technical assistance to the Libyan authorities to dispose of their chemical stockpiles, according to the procedures followed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in prepared comments.

The Hague, Netherlands-based organization monitors compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which requires member nations to eliminate any stockpiles of materials such as mustard blister agent or the nerve agents sarin and VX.

Tripoli's envoy to the nonproliferation organization sought Baghdad's “help in the diplomatic and technical field to get rid of chemical stockpiles that Libya has which must be destroyed," according to the Iraqi statement.

Iraq agreed based on its desire "to provide the necessary assistance … to Arab brothers at all levels,” al-Dabbagh stated. He also addressed Iraq's “extensive experience … in disposing of chemical weapons.”

Libya's former government under Muammar Qadhafi joined the convention in 2004, declaring a banned stockpiling encompassing roughly 25 metric tons of sulfur mustard agent and 1,400 metric tons of precursor substances. Slightly more than half of the mustard agent and 40 percent of the precursors had been eliminated when technical difficulties in February 2011 forced suspension of disposal efforts. The uprising that ultimately led to Qadhafi's the ouster and death began a short time later.

A small but unspecified amount of undeclared mustard agent was identified last year in the wake of Qadhafi's fall (see GSN, Jan. 20).

The Chemical Weapons Convention requires Libya to eliminate its chemical stocks by April 29, though it is widely acknowledged that the deadline will not be met. Instead, "Libya must now submit a detailed plan and completion date for destroying all of the declared materials to the OPCW not later than" April 29, according to a January OPCW release (Agence France-Presse/National Post, April 12).

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