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Global Insights: Coalition Must Act on Libyan Chemical Weapons

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recent events in Libya have refocused attention on Libya's remaining chemical agents, with particular concern over the possibility that Moammar Gadhafi will use them against the Libyan insurgents or against other targets, such as Western civilians. But there are also fears that the Libyan government could somehow lose control of some of the agents, whether due to ongoing domestic chaos or an eventual collapse of the regime, allowing terrorists to acquire them. Leaders of the coalition currently enforcing the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya need to adopt a strong declaratory policy against any misuse of these agents, even while they contemplate unpleasant contingency plans to secure or eliminate the material on their own.

Following the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Libya agreed (.pdf) to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction programs in return for normalizing relations with Washington and other anticipated rewards. The Libyan government subsequently made considerable progress in eliminating its nuclear weapons program, which had received significant assistance from the A.Q. Khan trafficking network. The United States removed Libya's stockpiles of uranium hexafluoride, its uranium-enriching centrifuge machines, and other materials and technologies intended to construct nuclear weapons, including detailed blueprints for making an atomic bomb. Libya also eliminated its longer-range ballistic missiles. ...

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