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Libya Reveals Mustard Gas Stockpile - 2004-03-05

Libya has revealed to international chemical weapons inspectors the existence of a stockpile of about 23 tons of mustard gas. The acknowledgment is part of Libya's efforts to normalize relations with the West.

Libya reported the mustard gas, as well as precursor chemicals that can be used to make sarin and other kinds of nerve gas to the U.N.'s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

The U.N. said the declaration was a major step towards eliminating Libya's weapons of mass destruction.

According to the United Nations, Libya handed over more than one dozen cartons of files on Tripoli's chemical weapons program, including details about a production site for chemical weapons, two storage facilities and a stockpile of about 23 tons of mustard gas.

Libya in December announced it would abandon efforts to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and allowed nuclear inspectors to check its weapons sites. Tripoli also joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons recently and is one of more than 160 nations to sign up for an international chemical weapons ban enforced by the organization.

Libya last month began destroying its chemical weapons in efforts to win back the trust of the United States and Europe. This followed an earlier move to agree to pay damages for the 1988 Pan Am airliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Washington has lifted the ban on Americans traveling to Libya and has said U.S. companies that were there before sanctions were imposed may start to negotiate their return. In addition, the United States says Assistant Secretary of State William Burns is considering a visit to Libya this month, in a sign of growing contacts between the sides.