Inspectors arrive to destroy Libya chemical weapons

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Libya is bracing for an international effort to destroy its chemical weapons program.

A team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in the Hague, arrives on Thursday in Tripoli to launch the effort to dismantle Libya's CW program. The six-member team will begin by inspecting Libyan facilities and record the number and type of chemical warheads and munitions.

At the same time, the United States plans to launch political talks with Tripoli that could pave the way for the lifting of U.S. sanctions imposed on Libya, Middle East Newsline reported. U.S. officials said the talks would begin on Friday in London and could be followed up by a visit by a State Department official to Tripoli.

Officials from the organization said the accounting will include a list of weapons and the programs that led to their development. The team will also inspect and review production facilities, including dual-use factories.

The team will also verify Libya's comprehensive initial declaration of any chemical weapons and CW-related activities, officials said. The organization will inactivate and then destroy CW production capacity and ensure that chemicals banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention are not transferred to any other country.

The arrival of the OPCW is meant to coincide with the date when Libya's membership in the organization takes effect. Under its agreement with Britain and the United States, Libya pledged to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and sign the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"From Feb. 5, 2004, Libya will begin to meet in full its obligations under this international disarmament and nonproliferation treaty," the OPCW said in a statement. "In response to the Libyan government's request for technical support, an OPCW team of experts will be working closely with Libyan officials to ensure the effective and comprehensive implementation of the chemical weapons ban."

So far, Libya was said to be in full cooperation with the OPCW. Four of the 13 countries that have not signed or ratified the convention include Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

"Libya's historic initiative is a decision of signal importance, which, hopefully, will serve to guide and encourage other states to follow suit," OPCW director-general Rogelio Pfirter said. "The OPCW stands ready to provide any assistance and support necessary to ensure that the chemical weapons ban is fully implemented in Libya and globally."

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