By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 23 March 2013:
Twenty militiamen have suffered from inhaling poisonous gas, according to the Arabic news website Almanara. The . . .[restrict]men were guarding a chemical weapons facility set up by the former regime in the south of Libya.
The guards were said to have been exposed to mustard gas while with a mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
GNC officials are said to be involved in moves to send the guards to a hospital in Europe that specialises in such cases.
The main stockpile of Qaddafi-era chemical weapons, 13 tonnes in all, consisting of several hundred munitions loaded with sulfur mustard as well as unweaponised sulphur mustard agent and chemical munitions plus artillery shells, is at Rowagha in central Libya, some 700 km south of Tripoli.
When Libya joined the OPCW in 2004, three chemical weapons plants as well as 24.7 tonnes of suphur mustard and 3,563 unloaded weapons were disclosed to the organization. However, the Rowagha stockpile was kept secret and not disclosed until after the revolution.
Libya was supposed to have started the destruction of these remaining weapons by 29 April 2012. In the event it did not, instead simply handing over detailed plans to do so by the deadline and requesting a delay.
The operation is to be completed by December 2016, but to begin now.
Speaking in Vienna earlier this week the Director-General of the OPCW, Ahmet Uzumcu, said that destruction of the stockpiles would start in April under the supervision of OPCW inspectors now that the chemical weapons destruction facility was repaired.
However, it was announced last May that the facility had been repaired and was operational.
Uzumcu also announced this week that yet more Libyan stockpiles of chemical weapons had been recently discovered.
These had been reported to the OPCW, he said. It would help in destroying them as soon as the authorities decided on how to do that. The Libyan government, he said, was cooperating closely with the OPCW – and with a great deal of transparency. [/restrict]