VIENNA, March 19 Libya is expected to restart
destroying its ageing stockpiles of mustard gas next month after
a break of more than two years, the global chemical weapons
watchdog said on Tuesday.
Destruction of the stockpile at facilities in Ruwagha, about
700 km (430 miles) from the capital Tripoli, was suspended in
early 2011 due to technical problems and was further delayed by
the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi later the same year.
Securing Gaddafi-era weapons stockpiles has been seen as a
major challenge for Libya's new rulers as they struggle to bring
law and order after the conflict. Last year, there was an
estimated 13 tonnes of sulphur mustard gas at the site.
"Now the equipment is repaired," Ahmet Uzumcu, director
general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons (OPCW), said.
"We expect that the destruction ... will resume some time in
April under the verification of our inspectors," he told a
seminar of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and
In the meantime, Uzumcu said, some new chemical munitions
had been discovered in Libya and declared to the OPCW, including
artillery shells. The OPCW would assist Libya in destroying
those, once the authorities decided on how to do it.
"They are very cooperative, very transparent. With the new
government we have established very close cooperation," he said.
The 15-year-old OPCW enforces the Chemical Weapons
Convention which has been joined by 188 countries, including
Libya. It says almost 80 percent of the world's global stocks of
chemical weapons has been eliminated.
Uzumcu said his organisation was making every effort to get
eight countries still outside the pact - including Syria, Israel
and Egypt - on board. "We expect Myanmar, Angola and South Sudan
to join the organisation in the coming - hopefully - months, if
not years," he said.
(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Hemming)