THE HAGUE, April 24 (Reuters) - Libya will start destroying its ageing stockpiles of mustard gas within months after Canada’s donation of 4.5 million euros to the global chemical weapons watchdog, the group said Tuesday.
Munitions stockpiles remain largely unguarded in Libya following last year’s war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, but chemical weapons are so far believed to be more secure.
Securing Gaddafi-era stockpiles is a major challenge for Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council as it struggles to bring law and order following the uprising.
Canada’s contribution to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be used to reopen facilities in Ruwagha, about 700 km (430 miles) from the capital Tripoli, Ahmet Uzumcu, the OPCW’s chief, said in an interview.
The Canadian donation is the largest in the history of the 15-year-old OPCW, which enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention which has been joined by 188 countries.
Destruction of the mustard gas stockpile was suspended in 2011 due to technical problems and was further delayed by the uprising. OPCW inspectors visited the site this month and found the stockpile safely secured against misuse.
“Until today destruction has not resumed,” Uzumcu said.
“The destruction facility is now repaired and ready to function...We hope that the security measures will continue and the Libyans will prevent any access to the site.”
Uzumcu said the OPCW will assist in the destruction process and inspectors will be on the ground in Libya “as soon as possible,” probably within months.
It will take about six month to destroy the remaining stocks of mustard gas once operations have resumed, the OPCW said.
Libya is due to present a plan for destroying the roughly 13 tonnes of sulphur mustard gas at the site and an unspecified number of artillery shells and bombs containing mustard gas this week. (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch Editing by Maria Golovnina)