AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Libya’s remaining stockpile of toxic chemicals has been successfully transported abroad in an operation aimed at keeping them safe from militants, the world’s chemical weapons watchdog said on Wednesday.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the stockpile - hundreds of tonnes of industrial chemicals - had been removed on Saturday with the help of several countries.
Libya had asked the organization, which oversees the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention and won the Nobel Peace prize for ridding Syria of its declared chemical weapons, to help in destroying the chemicals due to deteriorating security.
“Removal of these chemicals is the first stage of an ongoing operation to verifiably eliminate the remnants of Libya’s now-defunct chemical weapon program,” OPCW chief Ahmet Üzümcü said in a statement.
“This OPCW-coordinated international effort has achieved a major milestone in guaranteeing that these chemicals will not fall into the wrong hands,” he said.
Libya had planned to destroy the chemicals itself, but fighting with Islamic State insurgents and political instability had raised fears that the stockpile would be acquired by insurgents.
Tripoli had already destroyed weapons that were ready for use including armed munitions and the most deadly, or “category 1,” toxins with the help of Western countries. But it still had around 850 tonnes of industrial chemicals that could be used to produce weapons.
The OPCW did not say where Libya’s chemicals were taken, but they were to be destroyed abroad.
The operation was assisted by Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States, the OPCW said.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Dominic Evans