U.S. intel: Libya may be hiding WMD stockpile at airbase in South

Monday, March 11, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The U.S. intelligence community has quietly warned of the prospect that Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi was maintaining a secret stockpile of nonconventional weapons.

Officials said the 16-member intelligence community has assessed that the Gadhafi regime could have access to weapons of mass destruction. They said the biggest threat was from chemical weapons, including those not yet destroyed by Tripoli.

"We believe that Gadhafi's defiance is based on the fact that he has a strategic asset that he has not yet used and that asset could be WMD," an official said.

The "Backgrounder" column in the current edition of Geostrategy-Direct.com reported that "Officials also confirmed that Libya still has some 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake ore that could be stolen or sold abroad."

Formally, the international community has determined that Tripoli cooperated with efforts by Britain and the United States to eliminate its WMD stockpile. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has reported that Libya still has some of the 9.5 to 23 tons of mustard gas declared by the Gadhafi regime in 2004.

But the revolt has halted efforts to destroy the remaining mustard gas stockpile, which OPCW had planned to complete in May. In 2004, Libya helped destroy 3,500 air-to-ground munitions filled with chemical weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community, particularly the CIA, has quietly assessed that Gadhafi was hiding what could be a significant stockpile of WMD. They said one suspected location could be an air base about 400 kilometers south of Tripoli.

The assessment was said to have listed several options for Gadhafi. One was that his forces use CW against the rebels in eastern Tripoli. Another was that Libyan agents plan attacks on Western interests in North African or Europe.

"I don't know of anyone at the [CIA] agency who was fully comfortable with the Libyans telling us everything we wanted to know," a former senior intelligence official told NBC News. "The going assumption was they were lying whenever possible, and we were rarely proven wrong. We believed they were saving something for a rainy day."

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