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– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
UN Backs Libya MANPADS Effort
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Xiaodon Liang

The UN Security Council on Oct. 31 adopted a resolution calling on the Libyan government to take “all necessary steps” to secure its weapons stockpile and to prevent the proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Resolution 2017, authored by Russia and adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, also tasks the Libya sanctions committee established in February with preparing a report on proposals to contain the proliferation of weapons and their components in North Africa.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Nov. 1 press release that prompt action in line with the resolution would help mitigate “serious risks to regional stability.” Russia called for a “strong barrier” against the proliferation of war materials from Libya and highlighted the risk of terrorist access to those arms.

At an Algiers press briefing Nov. 14, Derrin Smith, an adviser to the U.S. government’s interagency task force on MANPADS, told reporters that there was not “much indication” of the movement of the shoulder-fired missiles out of Libya and into the territory of its North African neighbors. Smith also said that although convoys of retreating Libyan fighters entering Niger had been heavily armed, the Nigerien government had not yet encountered any MANPADS or related components in seized arsenals.

Max Dyck, a program manager of the UN-organized Joint Mine Action Coordination Team in Libya, told a Nov. 1 press conference that, of several thousand NATO air strikes against Libyan targets since March, about 440 of them had targeted munitions storage facilities. At the Algiers briefing, Smith said it was not possible to determine how many of the 20,000 missiles accumulated by the Gaddafi regime are missing until MANPADS stockpiles buried under tons of rubble are excavated and inventoried over the coming months.