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"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
U.S., UK Devising Plans for Libya Inspections

Paul Kerr

Washington and London are developing specific arrangements for inspectors fully to evaluate Libya’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and to verify its recent agreement to eliminate them. President George W. Bush stated Dec. 19 that such efforts will include inspectors from “international organizations,” but it is unclear what this means because there are no international inspection regimes to verify compliance with agreements involving missiles or biological weapons.

Teams of U.S. and British intelligence experts have completed two initial visits to Libya to assess its weapons programs, but the tasks of assessing the rest of Tripoli’s weapons programs and dismantling its related facilities remain. U.S. officials have said that two existing international organizations—the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—will be involved in future chemical and nuclear disarmament efforts. It is uncertain, however, exactly how the U.S. and British governments will divide the remaining work with these agencies.

A National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson told Arms Control Today that U.S. and British intelligence experts are working with Libya to inventory its weapons programs. In the longer term, the spokesperson said, the OPCW’s role is likely to be limited to its traditional mandate under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): conducting inspections of relevant chemical facilities and monitoring the destruction of chemical weapons. Libya has said it will accede to the CWC but has not yet done so.

The IAEA monitors states-parties’ compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but its role also remains uncertain. A Dec. 22 IAEA press release stated that Libya has agreed to follow “a policy of full transparency and active cooperation” with the agency, as well as conclude an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. Libya already has full-scope IAEA safeguards, but the additional protocol will allow the agency to conduct more intrusive inspections.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has already visited several Libyan nuclear sites since Tripoli’s announcement and told the Associated Press Dec. 30 that the agency has “the mandate” to verify Libya’s nuclear activities and “intend[s] to do it alone.” Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli stated Dec. 31, however, that “[t]here will be other [U.S. and British-led] teams going back to Libya” to assess its nuclear activities.

Although Libya has agreed to adhere to its existing commitments under the Biological Weapons Convention and destroy missiles with ranges and payloads exceeding the Missile Technology Control Regime’s guidelines, no international inspections regimes exist to ensure Libyan compliance. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Dec. 22 that Washington and London can “devise…appropriate mechanisms” in the absence of an “international capability.” These could include U.S. and British personnel, as well as other permanent members of the UN Security Council, a senior administration official told reporters. A British official told Arms Control Today Dec. 23 that London is still deciding on what it views as the appropriate mechanism to conduct inspections for missiles and biological weapons.

The NSC spokesperson said that Washington has not considered a role for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)—the organization formed in 1999 to verify Iraq’s compliance with its UN disarmament obligations, including dismantling its prohibited missile and biological weapons programs. Former Executive Chairman Hans Blix wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial last May that UNMOVIC’s experience could make it a valuable organization for conducting such inspections.

As of the end of December, the Libyan sites under investigation had not been disclosed, but a senior administration official said that Libya has recently revealed mustard agent it produced at a facility near Rabta. In addition, a 2001 Department of Defense report noted an attempt to build an “underground chemical production facility at Tarhunah” during the 1990s. Libya also has its Tajura Nuclear Research Center, which contains a research reactor under IAEA safeguards.