3 February 2014
US-backed programme discreetly destroys Libya’s chemical weapons
An US-backed campaign for the past three months to discreetly destroy Libya’s lethal arsenal and chemical weapons successfully ended last week. Hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds filled with mustard agents, which the US feared could fall into terrorists’ hands, were destroyed. The programme took 45 million US dollar from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction fund and the Pentagon assigned Parsons Corporation to work with Libya to rebuild and safeguard the disposal site. Additionally, Canada donated 6 million US dollar to the site to restore water, sewage and electricity, and to build living quarters, while Germany agreed to send international inspectors to the site.
Paul F. Walker, an arms control expert with Green Cross International, stated ‘[e]ven though Libya’s chemical stockpile was relatively small, the effort to destroy it was very difficult because of weather, geography and because it’s a dangerous area with warring tribes, increasing the risks of theft and diversion.’ The disposal site is located in the desert where Islamist militants are gaining more influence and where the eastern and western provinces struggle over political power and oil revenue.
The programme used a Swedish custom-built device to destroy the chemical weapons. The device is like a giant, high-tech oven in which the weapons are fed into a gas-tight chamber, where the toxic materials are vaporised at temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The easily transportable technology used to destroy Libya’s chemical weapons has become a model for the programme in Syria to destroy their chemical weapons now underway.