WASHINGTON — The United States is set to aid the destruction of Cold War-era stockpiles of chemical weapons in Albania, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) announced yesterday (see GSN, April 26).
The project, set to begin in 2005 and expected to last about two years, will involve the destruction of 16 tons of chemical weapons agent at a cost of about $20 million, according to a Lugar press release. It did not say how much funding the United States would provide for the effort.
The senator’s office said that information on the type and location of the stockpile was being withheld to “ensure operational security or prevent revealing to potential proliferators or terrorists information that could endanger the stockpile.”
Swiss officials, who have also been involved in efforts to dispose of Albanian chemical weapons, have previously described the stockpile as consisting of mustard agent located at a site about 50 kilometers from the Albanian capital of Tirana.
The United States recently installed security fencing and monitoring equipment at the stockpile site. Security concerns persist, according to a Lugar spokesman, who said yesterday in a written reply to Global Security Newswire that “theft and black market sale was certainly a possibility for these materials.”
Albania last year declared its small chemical weapons stockpile to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention. In May 2003, the United States and Albania reached a cooperation agreement establishing the foundation for U.S. assistance to the chemical weapons destruction project. Washington is next set to deliver to the Albanian government a draft agreement defining the scope of the project, according to the Lugar release. Lugar’s office referred questions on details of the project to the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which did not comment.
U.S. aid to the disposal project will be provided through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which seeks to secure and dispose of former Soviet weapons of mass destruction. The Albanian project marks the first time that CTR funds would be spent outside of the former Soviet Union, according to the Lugar release. U.S. lawmakers approved last year a measure to allow the president to spend up to $50 million in CTR funds on projects located outside of the former Soviet Union.
“Russia will continue to be a major focus but emerging risks must also be addressed in the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. Nunn-Lugar has developed a unique capability to meet a variety of proliferation threats and I am excited that it will address this unique threat present in Albania,” Lugar said in a statement.
Lugar, along with former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), was one of the original architects of the CTR program.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Sam Nunn is chief executive officer, and Richard Lugar serves on the board, of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.]