International weapons inspectors have confirmed that former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi did indeed keep a stockpile of illegal chemical weapons.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which seeks to ban such weapons, said its officials found sulfur mustard agent, a substance that can cause severe blistering, during a visit to Libya last week.
“They are not ready to use, because they are not loaded with agents,” OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said, according to Associated Press.
Apparently, the new regime in Libya informed the OPCW of the previously undeclared stock of chemicals late last year after toppling Gaddafi.
The inspectors verified the declared chemical weapons, which consist of sulfur mustard agent that is not loaded into munitions, the OPCW said.
At the same time, at the request of the Libyan authorities, the inspectors examined munitions, mainly artillery shells, which they determined are chemical munitions and hence declarable.
OPCW indicated that the newly discovered stockpile is being stored in Ruwagha depot in the remote southeastern part of Libya along with chemical weapons that Gaddafi did admit to possessing back in 2004.
At that time, the Libyan despot said his government had 27.6 tons of sulfur mustard and 1,543 tons of precursor chemicals used to make chemical weapons, AP noted. Gaddafi also declared more than 3,500 unfilled aerial bombs designed for use with chemical warfare agents.
Prior to the outbreak of the civil war last February, Gaddafi’s government had been able to destroy a little more than half – 54 percent -- of its declared sulfur mustard, and about 40 percent of its precursor chemicals, OPCW added.
The new Libyan government now has until the end of April to propose a new plan to destroy all remaining dangerous chemical materials.