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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs