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U.N. Chief Pledges Aid to Libya in Securing WMD Materials

(Nov. 3) -U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, poses on Wednesday with incoming interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Keib. The U.N. chief on Wednesday said international experts would support Libyan efforts to lock down and oversee the country's chemical warfare and atomic material (U.N. photo). (Nov. 3) -U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, poses on Wednesday with incoming interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El Keib. The U.N. chief on Wednesday said international experts would support Libyan efforts to lock down and oversee the country's chemical warfare and atomic material (U.N. photo).

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said his organization would dispatch specialists to Libya to assist in efforts to secure and manage the nation's chemical weapons and nuclear material, Reuters reported (see GSN, Nov. 2).

"The former regime under [Muammar] Qadhafi has reported to the relevant United Nations organizations on nuclear materials as well as chemical weapons," Ban told journalists during a visit to Tripoli.

Ban said he had broached the WMD security matter in a meeting with Libya's interim government "so that these materials will be securely controlled. It is very important that all these materials, very carefully and without fail, be secured."

The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons -- the international monitoring entities tasked respectively with oversight of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention -- will both be sending specialists to the North African state, Ban said.

Qadhafi, now deceased, pledged in 2003 to shutter his WMD research and production programs under a deal reached with the West. He surrendered technology related to the development of nuclear warheads and declared a chemical arsenal of approximately 25 metric tons of mustard blister agent and a much larger quantity of chemical weapon precursor material, according to previous reports. Chemical agent disposal operations began in 2010, but were broken off due to equipment failure before start earlier this year of the popular uprising that would topple Qadhafi's regime.

Libya is understood to still have roughly 9.5 metric tons of declared mustard gas as well as more than 800 tons of precursor material. Tripoli's new leadership has announced, however, the discovery of two chemical weapon facilities that had not been declared to OPCW officials (see GSN, Sept. 29). The country also possesses a large quantity of raw uranium.

Libyan National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil said after a portion of Libya's frozen funds are made accessible to the council, the body will have the resources to secure weapons and enforce order among revolutionary fighters that have refused to surrender their guns (Oliver Holmes, Reuters/Daily Star, Nov. 3).

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