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Libya: Chemical Weapons

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the discovery of chemical weapons stocks in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi; whether these weapons were (a) secret or (b) known to the organisations overseeing the chemical weapons disarmament process; whether their existence means that the Gaddafi regime was cheating on its promise to disarm; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

On 4 November 2011, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that, following an on-site inspection, inspectors had confirmed that the remains of the chemical weapons stocks declared by the Gaddafi regime were intact and secure, pending completion of destruction.

The OPCW also announced that the Libyan authorities had advised them orally on 1 November 2011 that further stocks of what were believed to be chemical weapons had been found. We welcome the willingness of the new Libyan Government to provide full disclosure and transparency. The OPCW is working with the Libyan authorities to confirm the nature of the newly discovered items and to verify their destruction should they turn out to be chemical weapons.

We continue to monitor the situation closely with international partners and expect the Libyan Government to ensure the safety and security of all stocks.

If these items are confirmed to be chemical weapons, then the Gaddafi regime held back important information about parts of its chemical weapons programme, and failed to declare and destroy it completely in accordance with the promises that it made and the international commitments which it accepted under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The UK Government’s engagement with Libya on weapon of mass destruction issues made real progress in diminishing the threat Gaddafi posed. Libya gave up its nuclear capabilities. Bringing Libya into the Chemical Weapons Convention led to the destruction, by February 2011, of all its declared unfilled aerial bombs, 55% of the mustard agent, and 40% of the chemical precursor stocks. This provides the basis for the new Government to take the necessary steps to declare and destroy all the weapons that it has inherited.

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