News / Africa

US: Libyan Uranium, Chemical Weapons Secure

The U.S. State Department said Thursday it believes that Libyan stockpiles of mustard agent and uranium are secure, despite continuing turmoil there. U.S. officials are less sure about the status of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons that were in Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's military arsenal.  

The Gadhafi government, in a bid to escape terrorism-related sanctions and political isolation, renounced weapons of mass destruction in 2003 and later gave up key components of a nascent nuclear weapons program.

But Libya’s continued to possess large quantities of mustard agent -- a potential component of chemical weapons.  And a stockpile of low-enriched uranium, or yellowcake, has been a matter of international concern as the country descended into conflict.

Nonetheless, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Thursday that the United States is confident, based on assurances from Libya’s Transitional National Council, or TNC, and observations by U.S. intelligence, that Libya's stockpiles of uranium and mustard agent are secure.

She said the yellowcake uranium is under guard at a nuclear research site near Tripoli.

“It is at the Tajoura nuclear research facility.  It is safeguarded there.  We are able, through our national technical means, to assert that we believe it is secure.  And in any case, Libya doesn’t have the means right now to turn yellowcake into anything dangerous,’ Nuland said.

Nuland said that in the process that led to the normalization of relations between the United States and Libya in 2006, the Gadhafi government surrendered nuclear weapons equipment it had obtained from Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan network two years earlier.  She said it gave up its last highly-enriched uranium in 2009.

The State Department spokeswoman said Libya still possesses a large quantity of mustard agent that could potentially be used to fill artillery shells and missile warheads.  But she said that, too, is secure at a guarded ammunition complex.

“It is inside massive steel containers within heavy bunkers.  These bunkers were sealed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW.  Our judgment is that they remain secure.  And again, these are not weapon-ready chemicals.  They can’t be converted on a dime [i.e., quickly] and they’re in these massive drums inside a heavy bunker.  And we are able to monitor the security with national technical means,” Nuland said.

“National technical means” commonly refers to spy satellites and other U.S. intelligence assets.

Nuland said the main proliferation concern from Libya involves portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, or MANPADS -- short for Man Portable Air Defense System.  The Gadhafi government is thought to have stockpiled perhaps thousands of the weapons, which could be used to shoot down commercial airliners.

Since the Libyan conflict began, U.S. personnel have been working with countries bordering Libya, and more recently with the TNC, to try to detect MANPAD smuggling attempts.

Nuland decried what she called ”fear-mongering” reporting on the subject, but also said that there is no reliable information on the extent of the Libyan MANPAD problem, if there is one.

MANPADS have rarely been linked to terrorist attacks.  One attack was an unsuccessful attempt by an al-Qaida-affiliated group to shoot down an Israeli airliner at the Kenyan port city of Mombassa in 2002.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs