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UN authorizes disposal of Libya's chemical weapons

July 23, 2016

The UN Security Council has authorized the end of Libya's chemical weapons stockpile, a move hailed by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The move comes amid concerns over the use of the weapons by militants.

a man loyal to the Libyan armed forces sits in a tank during clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi Copyright: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. el-Shaiky
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. el-Shaiky

The UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday authorized member states to assist Libya in eliminating the country's stockpile of chemicals that could be used to develop toxic weapons.

The 15-member body determined "that the potential for acquisition by non-state actors of chemical weapons in Libya represents a threat to international peace and security," the British-drafted resolution said.

Libya's UN-backed national unity government last week asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to help it remove the chemicals after it transported them to a temporary storage site in northern Libya.

The UNSC resolution allows member states to "acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy" chemical weapons to "ensure the elimination of Libya's chemical weapons stockpile."

Libya is in possession of roughly 700 tons of precursor chemicals, according to diplomats.

The North African country had 24.7 tons of mustard gas, 1,390 tons of precursor chemicals and 3,000 bombs containing chemical weapons when it signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention in 2004.

'End of the Libyan chemical weapons program'

'Imminent threat'

Several countries have expressed concern over the ability of militant groups in Libya, including the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) to gain access to the stockpile and use it to further their causes.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the resolution "reduced the risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and fanatics."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the UNSC's unanimous decision was relevant "given there's been a springing up of terrorist groups in Libya."

"There was an imminent threat of danger that these things would fall into terrorist hands. The examples of Syria and Iraq have demonstrated the topical nature of the problem of chemical terrorism for the region," Churkin added.

The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously in favor of the British-drafted resolution Copyright: picture alliance/ZUMA Press/L. Muzi
The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously in favor of the British-drafted resolutionImage: picture alliance/ZUMA Press/L. Muzi

ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)