The United Kingdom has agreed to offer Libya security assurances and strengthen their mutual security relationship in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s lead in abandoning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs.
On June 26 in Tripoli, British Junior Foreign Minister Kim Howells signed a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security” with his counterpart, Libyan Secretary for European Affairs Abdullati Obidi. The letter pledges that the United Kingdom will seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons. The United Kingdom also pledged to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities, and both states pledged to work jointly to combat the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).
“I believe that this mutual commitment will serve as an example to other states that there is a route back into the international community and the advantages of Libya’s WMD decision,” Howells said. In December 2003, Libya announced that it would abandon its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Although it had successfully developed a small chemical weapons stockpile, it had not made much progress on its nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, March 2004.)
Diplomatic relations between the two states were severed by the United Kingdom in 1984 following the murder of a British policewoman outside the Libyan embassy in London and worsened after the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. After Libya agreed to accept “general responsibility” for the 1984 murder, the United Kingdom restored diplomatic relations in 1999.
The United States, which had worked closely with the United Kingdom to convince Libya to abandon its weapons programs, does not have plans to enter a similar agreement. A U.S. official told Arms Control Today Aug. 23 that although the agreement would be closely studied, it was premature to consider any arrangement that would involve the United States directly. However, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Tripoli in May and removed Libya from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. (See ACT, June 2006.) In addition, the United States has been studying the possibility of providing financial and technical assistance to Libya to help meet the country’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy its small stockpile of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals. (See ACT, May 2006.)