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‘Libya Model’ Upsets Summit Planning

June 2018
By Kelsey Davenport and Terry Atlas

The United States and North Korea engaged in diplomatic brinkmanship over a prospective summit meeting, after provocative remarks by top U.S. officials citing the “Libya model” for disarmament drew a strong pushback from Pyongyang.

For days, it was unclear whether the resulting decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to cancel the historic meeting with North Korean leader King Jong Un would be a serious breakdown, raising the risk of military conflict, or a temporary setback as each side sought advantage ahead of an eventual summit.

North Korean officials watch the demolition May 24 at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where North Korea appeared to destroy at least three tunnels, observation buildings, a metal foundry and living quarters at the remote mountain site. (Photo: News1-Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images)Less than 24 hours after his cancellation, and following a conciliatory public reaction from Pyongyang, Trump said that the two sides were talking, and summit planning resumed with both leaders signaling they wanted the meeting.

Asked if North Korea had been playing games, Trump said, “Everybody plays games.” And an official North Korean statement, following an emergency meeting May 26 between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said Kim had expressed his “fixed will” to meet with the U.S. president.

Trump abruptly called off the summit May 24, citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” shown in North Korean statements. Just hours earlier, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui had said Kim might reconsider the June 12 summit due to “ignorant and stupid” remarks by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

It appeared that Trump wanted to look strong by aborting summit plans rather than risk being dumped, after preparations were upset following remarks from Pence and Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, both hard-liners on North Korea.

In a Fox News interview May 21, Pence warned that North Korea’s government could end like that of Moammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader who was killed during a U.S.-backed uprising in 2011, if Kim does not agree to rapid elimination of its nuclear weapons and related infrastructure. Asked if he was threatening Kim, Pence said, “I think it’s more of a fact.”

In her statement, Choe said, “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”

Trump, in his cancellation letter to Kim made public, said, “I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.” He thanked Kim for the “beautiful gesture” of releasing of three American prisoners and left open the possibility of meeting at a later time.

Trump also included a less-than-subtle threat: “You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Ky Gwan, responding to Trump’s announcement, said North Korea was ready to talk with the United States “at any time.” He said that North Korea’s earlier comments were “just a reaction to the unbridled remarks made by the U.S. side” and that Trump’s unexpected cancellation may be a sign that he lacked the will or confidence to attend the summit.

The cancellation appeared to catch South Korea off guard despite Moon’s White House meeting with Trump just 48 hours earlier. Moon called the cancellation “regretful and disconcerting,” and he subsequently met with Kim May 26 in an effort to get the summit back on track.

A summit has the potential to be a major diplomatic achievement for Trump, who has advocated a Nobel Peace Prize for himself. But it also holds peril given his shortcoming in dealing with the complexities of nuclear negotiations and his need to produce an agreement more demanding than the rigorous Iran nuclear deal he repudiated and abandoned.

The cancellation by Trump came just hours after North Korea, acting on one of its unilateral promises, blew up tunnels at its Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site. The government did not bring in inspectors from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to assess the extent to which the site is no longer usable.

The Trump administration stumbled in its policy coordination, with Pence and Bolton citing the provocative “Libya model” while the president himself publicly indicated flexibility for the timing of disarmament steps. Bolton told CBS on April 28 that the Trump administration is “looking at the Libya model,” which would require Kim to give up his nuclear weapons program quickly before any concessions are granted.

Libya never possessed nuclear warheads, but pursued an illicit nuclear weapons development program, which it gave up in 2003 and dismantled under the presence of inspectors. (See ACT, January/February 2004.) When that process was completed, the United States lifted sanctions in 2004.

That case, however, is freighted with symbolism for North Korea’s leadership since Gaddafi was toppled and killed seven years later by U.S.-aided rebel forces. For North Korea, the nuclear weapons program is seen as a powerful deterrent against U.S. attack, as well as an assertion of its concept of radical self-reliance known as juche.

Kim Ky Gwan said on May 16 that it is “absolutely absurd to dare compare” North Korea with Libya. The U.S. remarks are an “awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” he said.

If Washington insists on forcing “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” Pyongyang will no longer be interested in dialogue, he said.

Trump muddied the waters about the U.S. approach to negotiations the following day, when he downplayed the Libya model. His comments, however, made clear he did not understand that Bolton was referring to the 2003 nuclear dismantlement agreement.

Trump said that, “in Libya, we decimated that country,” likely referring to the NATO intervention in 2011 and the death of Gaddafi. He said that if an agreement is reached, Kim will remain in North Korea “running that country.” But Trump warned that North Korea would face the same fate as Libya “if we don’t make a deal.” North Korea did not respond publicly Trump’s comments, instead focusing on Pence and Bolton.

During the surprise U.S.-North Korean diplomacy this year, one challenge has been the differing interpretations of “denuclearization,” which the United States regards as the complete, verifiable elimination of North Korea’s entire nuclear weapons infrastructure. For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan. (See ACT, May 2016.)

A comprehensive agreement that addresses North Korea’s entire program in one step may sound appealing, in that it would address the legitimate concern that Pyongyang is just buying time and is not serious about denuclearization. Yet, the size of North Korea’s nuclear program and the role its warheads play in the state’s security make the approach less feasible.

Unlike Libya, North Korea possesses a stockpile of weapons-usable material, 10 to 20 nuclear warheads, plutonium- and uranium-production facilities, a nuclear testing site, and a variety of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads against targets in the region and in the United States. North Korea also has a history of cheating on its nuclear declarations to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even in the Libya case, when Tripoli was cooperating with dismantlement efforts, some materials were missed during the dismantlement process.

Beyond North Korea’s explicit rejection of an approach that requires “abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterward,” Pyongyang’s characterizes its nuclear weapons as a deterrent against U.S. policy. Putting that deterrent on the table ahead of U.S. action to reduce the “hostile policy” toward North Korea is highly unlikely.

An alternative to the Libya model is a step-by-step approach with reciprocal actions. Under this approach, the United States and North Korea would agree on overarching goals at the onset, then pursue a phased action-for-action strategy that exchanges steps toward dismantlement for security assurances and economic relief.

North Korea appears to favor that model. In his May 25 statement, Kim Ky Gwan said “the first meeting will not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way” would improve the relationship.


Why U.S. talk of the “Libya model” drew a strong pushback from North Korea.

Chronology of Libya's Disarmament and Relations with the United States

March 2021

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: January 2018

On December 19, 2003, long-time Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi stunned much of the world by renouncing Tripoli’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and welcoming international inspectors to verify that Tripoli would follow through on its commitment.

Following Gaddafi’s announcement, inspectors from the United States, United Kingdom, and international organizations worked to dismantle Libya’s chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its longest-range ballistic missiles. Washington also took steps toward normalizing its bilateral relations with Tripoli, which had essentially been cut off in 1981.

Libya’s decision has since been characterized as a model for other states suspected of developing WMD in noncompliance with their international obligations to follow. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker stated May 2, 2005 during the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that Libya’s choice “demonstrates that, in a world of strong nonproliferation norms, it is never too late to make the decision to become a fully compliant NPT state,” noting that Tripoli’s decision has been “amply rewarded.”

Tripoli’s disarmament was also a success story for the U.S. intelligence community, which uncovered and halted some of the assistance Libya was being provided by the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. At  that time, the U.S. intelligence community was being harshly criticized for its failures regarding Iraq’s suspected WMD programs.

The factors that induced Libya to give up its weapons programs are debatable. Many Bush administration officials have emphasized the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq, as well as the October 2003 interdiction of a ship containing nuclear-related components destined for Libya, as key factors in Tripoli’s decision. But outside experts argue that years of sanctions and diplomatic efforts were more important.

Libya erupted into civil war in February 2011, beginning as a clash between peaceful political protestors and the government. The situation degenerated into armed conflict between loyalist Gaddafi forces and rebel militias and culminated with a toppled regime and an elected General National Congress in August 2012. Disarmament efforts were halted in February 2011 due to the conflict but no chemical or biological weapons were used by either side. U.S. intelligence sources said that the stockpiles of these weapons remain secure. Libya today is again on the path to destroying its weapons of mass destruction capabilities and stockpiles.

The following chronology summarizes key events in the U.S.-Libyan relationship, as well as weapons inspection and dismantlement activities in Libya since its 2003 pledge.


Skip to: 1970s, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018.



May 26, 1975: Codifying a commitment to forswear nuclear weapons, Libya ratifies the NPT seven years after it was first signed by the regime of King Idris al-Sanusi.

December 2, 1979: A mob attacks and sets fire to the U.S. embassy in Tripoli. Embassy officials are subsequently withdrawn and the embassy shut down.

December 29, 1979: The U.S. government places Libya on a newly created list of state sponsors of terrorism. Countries on the list are subject to a variety of U.S. sanctions.

1978-1981: Libya purchases more than 2,000 tons of lightly processed uranium from Niger. The Soviet Union completes a 10 megawatt nuclear research reactor at Tajoura.


July 1980: Libya’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enters into force. Such agreements allow the IAEA to inspect certain nuclear-related facilities within a country to verify that the government is not misusing civilian nuclear programs for illicit military purposes.

Libya subsequently pursues clandestine nuclear activities related to both uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. Both plutonium and highly enriched uranium can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

May 6, 1981: The United States closes Libya’s embassy in Washington and expels Libyan diplomats.

August 19, 1981: U.S. aircraft shoot down two Libyan combat jets that fired on them over the Mediterranean Sea.

January 19, 1982: Libya ratifies the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The BWC prohibits states-parties from developing, producing, and stockpiling offensive biological agents.

January 7, 1986: President Ronald Reagan issues an executive order imposing additional economic sanctions against Libya in response to Tripoli’s continued support for international terrorism, including two December 1985 attacks at airports in Rome and Vienna. The order bans most Libyan imports and all U.S. exports to Libya, as well as commercial contracts and travel to the country. Libyan assets in the United States are also frozen. Reagan authorizes the sanctions under the authority of several U.S. laws, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

April 15, 1986: U.S. forces launch aerial bombing strikes against Libya in response to Tripoli’s involvement in an April 5 terrorist attack that killed two American servicemen at a Berlin disco.

December 21, 1988: Pan Am Flight 103 en route from London to New York explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 bystanders on the ground. In November 1991, investigators in the United States and United Kingdom name two Libyan officials as prime suspects in the bombing.

September 19, 1989: The French airliner UTA Flight 772 bound for Paris explodes, killing all 171 people on board. Investigating authorities find evidence of terrorism and indict two Libyan suspects in 1991.


January 21, 1992: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 731 demanding that Libya surrender the suspects in the Pam Am bombing, cooperate with the Pan Am and UTA investigations, and pay compensation to the victims’ families.

March 31, 1992: The Security Council adopts Resolution 748 imposing sanctions on Libya, including an arms embargo and air travel restrictions.


November 11, 1993: The Security Council adopts Resolution 883 which tightens sanctions on Libya. The resolution includes a limited freeze of Libyan assets as well as a ban on exports of oil equipment to Libya.


July 1995: According to the IAEA, Libya makes a “strategic decision to reinvigorate its nuclear activities, including gas centrifuge uranium enrichment.”

Gas centrifuges can enrich uranium for use in nuclear reactors as well as for fissile material in nuclear weapons.


April 1996: Libya joins the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone by signing the Treaty of Pelindaba. The treaty prohibits member states from developing, acquiring, and possessing nuclear weapons, but has not yet entered into force.

August 5, 1996: The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) becomes law. The act authorizes the president to impose sanctions against foreign companies that invest more than $40 million a year in Libya’s oil industry.


April 5, 1999: Libya hands over two suspects--each reportedly linked to Libyan intelligence--to Dutch authorities for trial in the bombing of Pam Am Flight 103.

Immediately following the handover, as well as France’s acknowledgement that Tripoli had cooperated with French officials investigating the UTA bombing, the Security Council suspends sanctions against Libya originally imposed in 1992.

May 1999: Libyan officials offer to eliminate their chemical weapons programs during secret talks with the United States, according to Martin Indyk, then assistant secretary of state. In a March 10, 2004 Financial Times article, Indyk reveals that U.S. officials insisted Libya reach a settlement with the Pan Am victims’ families, as well as accept responsibility for the bombing, before Washington negotiate with Libya about its chemical weapons.

1999-2000: U.S. intelligence agencies begin to obtain new information that Libya is “reinvigorating its nuclear, missile, and biological [weapons] programs,” according to a March 31, 2005 report from the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. By 2000, “information was uncovered that revealed shipments of centrifuge technology from the [proliferation network run by former Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan] were destined for Libya,” the report says.

Following the suspension of UN sanctions, Libya also begins increasing its efforts to obtain chemical weapons. According to a 2003 CIA Report, Tripoli reestablishes “contacts with sources of expertise, parts, and precursor chemicals abroad, primarily in Western Europe.”


January 31, 2001: Three judges hand down verdicts in the Pan Am trial. One man, Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, is found guilty of 270 counts of murder. The other suspect, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, is acquitted.

November 19, 2001: Speaking at the BWC Review Conference, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton states that Libya may be violating the treaty by actively seeking to develop or deploy offensive biological weapons. This is the first time the United States has accused noncompliant states by name at a diplomatic conference.


May 6, 2002: Bolton indicates in a speech to the Heritage Foundation that Libya and Syria received dual-use technology that could be used for producing biological weapons through trade with Cuba. Dual-use goods are items having both civilian and military uses.

August 3, 2002: President George W. Bush signs the “ILSA Extension Act of 2001” which extends the provisions of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act for an additional five years and lowers the $40 million investment threshold for the possible imposition of sanctions to $20 million.


February 12, 2003: CIA Director George Tenet, in written testimony to Congress, notes “Libya clearly intends to re-establish its offensive chemical weapons capability.”

Early March 2003: Libyan intelligence officials approach British intelligence officials and offer to enter negotiations regarding the elimination of Libya’s WMD programs. The subsequent negotiations, which include U.S. officials, are kept secret.

Former National Security Council official Flynt Leverett later writes in a January 23, 2004 New York Times article that Washington offers an “explicit quid pro quo” to Tripoli regarding its WMD programs. U.S. officials indicate that the United States will remove its sanctions on Libya if the latter verifiably dismantles these programs, according to Leverett.

The meeting occurs prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq later that month.

April 5, 2003: Bolton says in an interview with Radio Sawa that the invasion of Iraq “sends a message” to Libya, as well as Iran and Syria, “that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high.”

September 12, 2003: In a 13-0 vote, the Security Council formally lifts sanctions imposed on Libya. The United States and France abstain. The Security Council’s action comes in response to Libya’s August 15 agreement to compensate the victims of the Pan Am attack, as well as Tripoli’s formal acceptance of responsibility for that bombing.

Libya agreed September 11 to offer additional compensation to the families of the 1989 UTA bombing victims. Libya first agreed in 1999 to pay the families, but agreed to increase the amount after the Pan Am victims were promised more. A final agreement is reached in January 2004.

U.S. Ambassador James B. Cunningham explains that the United States will not lift sanctions because of “serious concerns about other aspects of Libyan behavior,” including Tripoli’s WMD programs. Cunningham states that “Libya’s continued nuclear infrastructure upgrades raise concerns.” He accuses Tripoli of “actively developing biological and chemical weapons.”

Testifying before the House International Relations Committee four days later, Bolton reiterates his previous threat stating that countries developing WMD “will pay a steep price for their efforts.”

October 4, 2003: German and Italian authorities interdict a ship en route to Libya containing centrifuge components manufactured in Malaysia. Bush later touts the interdiction as a key intelligence success during a February 11, 2004 speech at the National Defense University. Some U.S. officials subsequently assert that the interdiction played a major role in convincing Libya to come clean on its weapons programs.

December 19, 2003: Libya’s Foreign Ministry publicly renounces the country’s WMD programs. Tripoli promises to eliminate its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, adhere to its commitments under the NPT and BWC, as well as accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Libya also promises to limit the range and payloads of its missiles to conform to guidelines set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Additionally, Libya agrees to conclude an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. The protocol expands the IAEA’s authority to check for clandestine nuclear activities. Libya invites inspectors to verify compliance with the agreements and assist in the dismantling of its weapons programs.

U.S. and British officials hail the announcement. Bush says that “far better” relations between Washington and Tripoli are possible if the latter fully implements its commitments and “demonstrates its seriousness.” Bush promises U.S. help to “build a more free and prosperous” Libya if the country achieves “internal reform.”

December 27, 2003: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Libya to begin the process of assessing and verifying Libya’s nuclear dismantlement activities.


January 4, 2004: The London Sunday Times publishes an interview with Gaddafi’s son, who reports that Libya obtained designs for a nuclear weapon from the Khan network.

January 6, 2004: Libya ratifies the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits the explosive testing of nuclear weapons. The treaty has not yet entered into force.

Tripoli also accedes to the CWC. Under the convention, Libya must completely destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles and production capacity by April 29, 2007. Upon joining the CWC, Libya declares the possession of its chemical weapons materials and capabilities as follows: 24.7 metric tonnes (MT) of sulfur mustard; 1,390 MT of precursor chemicals; 3,563 unloaded chemical weapons munitions (aerial bombs); and 3 former chemical weapons production facilities. The OPCW inspections verify these materials and capabilities.

January 18, 2004: U.S. and British officials arrive in Libya to begin elimination and removal of WMD designs and stockpiles. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter later tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee February 26 that the Libyan officials are “forthcoming about the myriad aspects” of Libya’s WMD programs.

January 24, 2004: Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking minority member of the House International Relations Committee, becomes the first U.S. lawmaker to visit Libya in decades.

January 27, 2004: U.S. officials airlift about 55,000 pounds of documents and components from Libya’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the United States. The nuclear-related material includes uranium hexafluoride (the feedstock for centrifuges), two complete second-generation centrifuges from Pakistan, and additional centrifuge parts, equipment, and documentation.

On March 15, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham calls the airlift “only the tip of the iceberg,” representing just 5 percent of the total amount of material the United States will eventually recover from Libya.

February 4, 2004: Khan reveals that, for two decades, he secretly provided North Korea, Libya, and Iran with technical and material assistance for making nuclear weapons.

February 20, 2004: The IAEA releases a report detailing Libya’s noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and outlining Tripoli’s nascent nuclear program. Specifically, the report describes Libya’s gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program, imports of nuclear material, and designs of facilities for uranium conversion. Libya’s IAEA safeguards agreement required Tripoli to report some of these activities, but the government failed to do so.

The report says that Libya ordered 10,000 advanced centrifuges and received two of them in 2000. Moreover, the report discloses that Libya secretly separated small amounts of plutonium from the spent fuel of the Tajuora Research Reactor during the 1980s.

Although the report states that Libya received nuclear weapons design documents from the Khan network, the IAEA cites no evidence that Libya ever undertook steps to build a nuclear weapon.

February 26, 2004: The United States lifts its Libya travel ban. U.S. citizens are allowed to make travel-related expenditures in Libya, and businesses may enter negotiations to re-acquire pre-sanctions holdings inside Libya. The United States also offers Libya the possibility of opening a diplomatic interests section in Washington.

DeSutter tells the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the same day that Libya’s decision to abandon its weapons programs should become “a model for other proliferators to mend their ways and help restore themselves to international legitimacy.”

February 27, 2004: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international body charged with verifying CWC compliance, confirms that Libyan officials provided a “partial initial declaration of their chemical weapons stockpiles” and promised a complete declaration to the organization by March 5, 2004.
The OPCW begins oversight of chemical weapons destruction activities in Libya.

February 28, 2004: At the end of an African Union summit, Gaddafi calls upon other states to abandon their WMD programs. Nuclear weapons, he says, make states less secure.

March 4, 2004: The OPCW reports that “[o]ver 3,300 [empty] aerial bombs, specifically designed to disperse chemical warfare agent, have been individually inventoried, then irreversibly destroyed under stringent international verification.”

March 5, 2004: Libyan officials submit a complete declaration of the state’s chemical weapons stockpile and facilities.

March 19, 2004: Two OPCW inspection teams completed the initial inspection and verified Libya's January declaration.



March 8, 2004: The United States, with assistance from British and IAEA officials, arranges for 13 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, a fissile material, to be airlifted from Libya to Russia for disposal.

March 10, 2004: Libya signs an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and reaffirms a December 29 commitment to behave as if the protocol had already entered into force.

DeSutter tells the House International Relations Committee that the United States has removed five 800 kilometer range Scud-C missiles from Libya, as well as additional missile and centrifuge components.

The IAEA Board of Governors adopts a resolution declaring that Libya’s past clandestine nuclear activities “constituted noncompliance” with its IAEA safeguards agreement. Nonetheless, the board welcomes the cooperation and openness of Libyan officials since December 2003 and recommends that ElBaradei report Libya’s noncompliance to the Security Council “for information purposes only.” The IAEA is required to report noncompliance with safeguards agreements to the Security Council, which can then take action against the offending state.

March 23, 2004: Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns meets with Libyan officials, including Gaddafi, in Tripoli. A State Department spokesperson calls the meetings “constructive” and reflective of the “step-by-step normalization” of relations between Libya and the United States. Burns is the most senior U.S. official to visit Libya since 1969.

April 22, 2004: In response to the March IAEA resolution, the Security Council issues a president statement “commending” Libya for its cooperation with the agency.

April 23, 2004: The White House terminates the application of ILSA with respect to Libya. Press Secretary Scott McClellan also announces that the Treasury Department has modified sanctions imposed under the authority of IEEPA. McClellan notes that “the resumption of most commercial activities” between Libya and the United States will now be permitted.

May 13, 2004: Libya announces it will end military trade with countries it deems “source[s] of concern for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. officials explain that the Libyan announcement follows a private agreement for Libya to end all its military dealings with Syria, Iran, and North Korea. However, the Libyan foreign ministry later denies that the announcement is aimed at Syria.

May 26, 2004: Libya submits its initial declarations required by its additional protocol arrangement with the IAEA.

May 28, 2004: ElBaradei issues a report to the IAEA board detailing the agency’s progress in verifying Libya’s declarations regarding its nuclear program. According to the report, “Libyan authorities have provided prompt, unhindered access to all locations requested by the [a]gency and to all relevant equipment and material declared to be in Libya.”

Speaking June 14 to the board, ElBaradei says questions remain regarding the origin of nuclear material Libya imported during 2000 and 2001, as well as the source of enriched uranium particles found on Libya’s centrifuge equipment. The agency has contacted other governments to investigate entities involved in providing nuclear technology to Libya.

June 28, 2004: Announcing that Washington and Tripoli will resume direct diplomatic ties, Burns inaugurates a new U.S. Liaison Office in Libya.

September 20, 2004: The United States lifts most of its remaining sanctions on Libya. Bush terminates the national emergency declared in 1986 under IEEPA, as well as revokes related executive orders. This action ends the remaining sanctions under IEEPA and ends the need for Treasury Department licenses for trade with Libya.

The United States also permits direct air flights between the two countries, as well as unfreezes Libyan assets in the United States. Additionally, Bush waives prohibitions on extending certain U.S. export assistance programs to Libya and on the ability of U.S. taxpayers to claim credits for taxes paid to Libya.

Libya is still subject to some sanctions as it remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. These sanctions include prohibitions on arms exports and Department of Defense contracts. The United States also is required to oppose loans from international financial institutions to such countries and impose export controls on dual-use items.

Two days later, DeSutter tells the House International Relations Committee that verification of Libya’s disarmament tasks is “essentially complete,” adding that the United States, working with the United Kingdom, has completed verifying “with reasonable certainty that Libya has eliminated, or has set in place the elimination of” its weapons programs.

August 30, 2004: ElBaradei issues another report to the IAEA board stating that information Tripoli has given to the agency about its past nuclear activities “appear[s] to be consistent with the information available to and verified by” the IAEA.

According to the report, the IAEA continues to investigate several outstanding issues regarding Libya’s nuclear weapons program, particularly assistance Tripoli received from the Khan network. Cooperation from other countries is “essential” for determining the role of the network in supplying Libya, the report adds.

October 11, 2004: European Union foreign ministers lift a 20 year-old arms embargo on Libya, allowing EU countries to export arms and other military equipment to that country. Part of the EU rationale for lifting the embargo is to improve Libya’s capacity to patrol its maritime borders and prevent illegal immigration to the EU from North Africa, a particular concern of southern European states such as Italy.

European arms transfers are still governed by the EU’s Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and national export control laws.


March 25, 2005: In a letter to The Washington Post, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan declares for the first time publicly the U.S. assessment that the uranium hexafluoride found in Libya originated in North Korea. According to McClellan, this material was transferred to Libya via the A.Q. Khan illicit trafficking network.

October 20, 2005: Libya signs an agreement with Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL to provide its Tajoura research reactor with low-enriched uranium (LEU) as part of an effort to convert the reactor from using HEU to LEU.


May 15, 2006: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announces the U.S. establishment of full diplomatic relations with Libya. As part of that move, President George W. Bush submits a report to Congress certifying that Tripoli had not engaged in acts of terrorism in the previous six months and had provided assurances that it would not support terrorism, thereby allowing Libya to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

June 26, 2006: The United Kingdom and Libya sign a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security,” in which London pledges to seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons and pledges to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities.  Both states also announce that they will work jointly to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

July 27, 2006: IAEA and U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration officials help remove the last remaining quantity of fresh HEU from Libya.  Three kilograms of Russian-origin HEU from the Tajoura research reactor in Libya are returned to Russia for disposal.

December 2006: The OPCW establishes Dec. 31, 2010 as the deadline for Libya to destroy its mustard gas stockpiles and Dec. 31, 2011 as the deadline to destroy its remaining chemical weapon precursors.


June 14, 2007: Libya annuls its contract on chemical weapons destruction with the United States due to dissatisfaction with its provisions on liability, financing, and facility ownership. Under its agreement with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, these chemicals must be eliminated by the end of 2010. Libya did not indicate how it intended to meet this commitment.

July 25, 2007: France and Libya sign a memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation.  The agreement outlines a plan for the eventual construction of a nuclear desalination plant.


January 3, 2008: Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgam pays an official visit to the United States and signs a Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement. This is the first official visit by a Libyan Foreign Minister to the United States since 1972.

August 14, 2008: The United States and Libya sign the U.S -Libya Claims Settlement Agreement, providing full compensation for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and the bombing of the Berlin disco. Under the terms of the agreement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certified to Congress that Libya paid $1.5 billion to cover terrorism related claims against Tripoli. The agreement also addressed Libyan claims arising from U.S. military actions in Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 to the amount of $300 million.

September 12, 2008: An IAEA Board report says that the agency has completed its investigation of Libya’s past nuclear activities and found that Tripoli had addressed all of the outstanding issues related to its past nuclear activity.


November 20, 2009: Libya unexpectedly halts the shipment of the remaining 5.2 kilograms of HEU in spent fuel from its Tajoura research reactor. The material was scheduled to be flown to Russia for disposal that same month as part of an agreement between the Libya, Russia, and the United States. According to State Department cables obtained by the Guardian in 2010, U.S. Energy Department experts said that concerns about the safety and security of the material presented a high level of urgency, and the HEU needed to be removed within one month.

December 21, 2009: Libya allows a Russian-chartered plane to leave the country carrying the last of its HEU spent fuel stocks for disposal in Russia after a month-long delay.

December 2009: The OPCW approves Libya’s request to extend the deadline for the destruction of its mustard gas stockpiles from December 2010 to May 2011. According to the OPCW report for 2009, Libya destroyed 39% of its chemical weapons precursors by the end of the year but destruction of its mustard gas had not yet begun.


July 2010: The State Department’s arms control Compliance Report says that Libya is complying with its Biological Weapons Convention and  nuclear nonproliferation obligations. It also says that Libya has made progress destroying its chemical weapons stockpile but has not yet met its obligations to adopt legislation to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention.

October 2010: The destruction of one of Libya's chemical agents, sulfur mustard, is initiated.



February 23, 2011: OPCW spokesperson Michael Luhan tells the Associated Press that Libya destroyed “nearly 13.5 metric tons” of its mustard gas in 2010, accounting for “about 54 percent of its stockpile.”

February 25, 2011: Citing security concerns due to ongoing political unrest, U.S. officials announce the suspension of U.S. embassy operations in Libya.

February 26, 2011: United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts Resolution 1970 condemning the lethal actions taken by Gaddafi forces against civilian political protestors.  The resolution also places financial and travel restrictions on regime officials.  The OPCW announced that machinery breakdowns brought to a halt ongoing destruction of sulfur mustard amid rising tensions.

March 17, 2011: The United Nations Security Council adopts Resolution 1973 authorizing an international response to the Libyan civil war.  The resolution creates a no-fly zone over Libya, strengthens an arms embargo and allows forcible inspection of suspected weapons trafficking ships and planes traveling to the country.

March – October 2011: NATO enforces the no-fly zone established by Resolution 1973.  Fighting continues between loyalist Gaddafi forces and the rebel militia.  The National Transition Council (NTC) is generally internationally recognized as the legitimate government of Libya.  U.S. officials publicly assure that remaining sulfur mustard agent and existing weapons stockpiles are secure during the ongoing conflict.

September 23, 2011: The IAEA confirms a cache of yellowcake uranium was discovered in an abandoned nuclear materials warehouse belonging to the Gaddafi regime.  The material is not deemed a high-level security risk because it is not suitable for use in a weapon.

October 20, 2011: Gaddafi is found and killed by rebel forces in the town of Sirte in western Libya.  NATO military operations end and the NTC forms an interim government and schedules elections.

November 1, 2011: The NTC officially notifies the OPCW of what was determined to be two undeclared chemical weapons stockpiles from the previous regime.  The NTC cooperates with OPCW plans to resume destruction of weapons material.

November 28, 2011: The new government in Tripoli submitted an official declaration of the weapons to the OPCW.

December 2011: The IAEA visits the Tajoura Nuclear Facility in Tripoli and a uranium concentrate storage facility in Sabha.  The nuclear watchdog organization informs the UN Security Council that no previously declared stockpiles had been disturbed or reported missing as a result of the conflict.



January 17-19, 2012: OPCW inspectors visited Libya to verify the previously undisclosed chemical weapons. The inspection’s purpose is two-fold, for verifying the new declaration with regard to types and quantities of chemical weapons, and for helping the Libyan government in determining whether another set of discovered materials could be declared under the provisions of the CWC.

April 2012: Libya fails to meet the international April 29, 2012 deadline for destruction of remaining chemical weapons.  Libya submits a working paper to the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons affirming the country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and compliance with IAEA authorities and regulations.

April 25, 2012: OPCW announced it would start the destruction of the mustard gas stockpile. Canada aids in the funding of the destruction.

May 2012: The government submits a revised plan to the OPCW to complete destruction activities by December 2016 with destruction operations to resume in March 2013.  Current Libyan behavior is indicative of a cooperative relationship with international nonproliferation standards.

May 27 – 28, 2012: The Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, visited Tripoli and met the Libyan Foreign Minister, H.E. Ashour Saad Ben Khaial, and the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Aziz. The Libyan authorities have reaffirmed their destruction of remaining chemical weapons as soon as possible.

August 2012: The NTC transfers power to the elected General National Congress.  Mohammed Magarief is elected by the body as interim head of state.

September 20, 2012: The IAEA approves and signs Libya’s Country Programme Framework (CPF) for the period of 2012 to 2017.  The medium-term planning agreement identifies how nuclear technology and resources will be used for economic development in the country.  The IAEA also conducted two missions to Libya in 2012 to review and support nuclear security and infrastructure.


April 20, 2013: Destruction of the remaining 8.82 metric tons of sulfur mustard stored at Ruwagha begins.

May 4, 2013: Libya completes the destruction of 22.3 metric tons of Category 1 chemical weapons, or nearly 85% of the total declared stocks under OPCW verification.

The remaining chemical weapon stockpile is comprised of about 2.45 metric tons of polymerised sulphur mustard and 1.6 metric tons of sulphur mustard loaded in projectiles, bombs and bomb cartridges, as well as 846 metric tons of precursor chemicals.


January 26, 2014: Libya completes the destruction of its category 1 chemical weapons. The OPCW verifies that the destruction is completed. The remaining category 2 materials are scheduled to be destroyed by the end of 2016. 


February 3, 2016: Libya requests assistance from the OPCW in destroying its remaining category 2 chemical weapons. 

July 16, 2016: The Libyan government requests assistance in removing chemical weapons precursors from the country and eliminating them out of the country. 

July 20, 2016: The OPCW approves Libya's request for assistance. 

July 22, 2016: The UN Security Council endorses the OPCW's decision to assist in transporting the precursors out of the country in Resolution 2298. A number of countries, including Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, offer technical and financial assistance for the removal and destruction. 

August 27, 2016: The OPCW confirms that the precursor chemicals were removed from Libya on Danish ships and brought to Germany for destruction. 


January 11, 2018: The OPCW confirms that the Category 2 chemical materials removed from Libya and transported to Germany had been destroyed, marking the complete destruction of Libya's chemical weapons arsenal.

Nuclear/Ballistic Missile Nonproliferation

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Mine Ban Membership Grows

January/February 2018
By Jeff Abramson

The Mine Ban Treaty added two new members in December, as the convention marked 20 years since it was opened for signature. During their annual meeting, states-parties welcomed progress and addressed rising casualties, while reasserting a collective goal to meet the treaty’s obligations to the fullest extent possible by 2025.

Rohingya refugee Rashida Begum stands next to her son in a Bangladeshi hospital as he is treated September 30, 2017, after being injured by a landmine while fleeing Myanmar. (Photo: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)Sri Lanka acceded to the treaty Dec. 13, five days before the Dec. 18-21 meeting of states-parties held in Vienna. The Palestinian delegation announced its intention to accede as a states-party during the meeting, completing the process Dec. 29. The treaty will enter into force for both on June 1, bringing the convention to 164 states-parties.

At the meeting, delegations reacted to a report that casualties from landmines, cluster munition remnants, and other remnants of war had risen to at least 8,605 in 2016, the second year of sharp increases from the 3,993 casualties identified in 2014. The 2016 toll was near the number recorded in 1999, when the treaty entered into force. Much of the increase was due to mines used in armed conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, and Yemen, according to the annual “Landmine Monitor” report. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a civil society coalition, released the report just prior to the meeting.

The use of landmines by armed forces in Myanmar along border crossings with Bangladesh and the resulting harm to fleeing Rohingya civilians drew international attention and outcry in 2017. The report identified Myanmar and Syria, neither of which is party to the treaty, as the only countries where it could be confirmed that government forces used landmines in the year prior to the meeting. Nonstate armed groups were responsible for much of the new use of mines, often improvised devices, in at least nine countries. Certain victim-activated improvised explosive devices are considered to fall under the treaty’s definition of anti-personnel landmines, which detonate due to “the presence, proximity or contact of a person.”

In response, delegates adopted a final report that again condemned any use of landmines. “On the 20th anniversary, there is no time for complacency,” said Austria’s Thomas Hajnoczi, who served as president of the meeting.

Approximately 60 countries have landmine contamination, more than half of which are states-parties to the treaty. During the meeting, delegates welcomed a declaration from Algeria that it had completed clearance, and they granted extension requests to five countries. Under the treaty, states have 10 years to clear contamination, but extensions are possible. The meeting also welcomed a declaration from Belarus that it had completely destroyed its stockpile of landmines, after it had missed its four-year deadline in 2008. In total, states-parties have destroyed more than 53 million anti-personnel landmines.

The United States, not party to the treaty, again attended the meeting as an observer as it has done since 2009. During the meeting, Steve Costner, deputy director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. State Department and head of the U.S. delegation confirmed to Arms Control Today that the U.S. landmine policy has remained unchanged. That policy, announced in 2014, disavowed production and acquisition of landmines prohibited by the treaty, permits their use only on the Korean peninsula, and set a goal to “ultimately comply with and accede” to the treaty. (See ACT, October 2014)

Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Switzerland and the United Nations in Geneva, will preside over the 2018 meeting, scheduled for Nov. 26-30 in Geneva. In concluding his statement, Hajnoczi said that “given the remaining challenges, redoubling our efforts to fulfill the aspiration is imperative to achieve a world free of anti-personnel mines by 2025.”

The Mine Ban Treaty added two new members in December, as the convention marked 20 years since it was opened for signature

Last CW Materials Removed from Libya

October 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

The last remnants of Libya’s chemical weapons program have been shipped out of the country, removing the threat that the precursor chemicals could be captured and weaponized by a militia or terrorist group.

Ahmet Üzümcü, director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said in a Sept. 8 press release that a Danish ship transported Libya’s remaining stockpile of chemical weapons precursors to Germany for destruction. 

The Danish naval force conducted a loading operation August 27 to remove the remnants of Libya’s chemical weapons program as part of an urgent international effort to ensure they would not be seized by militants. (Photo credit: Thorbjørn Hein/Defence Command Denmark)Libya requested in February that the OPCW, the body charged with overseeing implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), provide in-country assistance in destroying the precursors. Then in July, Libya requested that the precursors quickly be moved outside of the country for elimination due to concerns that they could fall into the hands of nonstate actors amid fighting by rival militias.

 On July 20, the OPCW Executive Council approved the request for assistance and directed Üzümcü to work with the Libyan government on a plan to move the precursors out of the country and destroy them. The OPCW decision was endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2298 on July 22. 

Paul Walker, director for environmental security and sustainability at Green Cross International, said in a Sept. 14 email that if the precursors of more than 500 metric tons of phosphorus trichloride and 2-chloroethanol were not removed, they could have been stolen by terrorists and used to produce chemical agents or, more likely, used as “toxic dual-use chemicals” in terrorism operations. Walker, also a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, said that “the timely removal of these dangerous chemicals precludes any further possible risks of terrorist misuse.”

The precursors were part of a larger Libyan chemical weapons program run by the regime of then-leader Moammar Gaddafi. After the United States toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ostensibly over the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Libya joined the CWC in 2004, declared the size of its chemical weapons stockpiles to the OPCW, and began destroying the chemicals in October 2010. 

That initial declaration to the OPCW included nearly 25 metric tons of sulfur mustard agent, 1,390 metric tons of precursors, munitions designed for delivering chemical weapons, and chemical weapons production facilities. Sulfur mustard is a Category 1 chemical weapon. Category 1 weapons are the most toxic. The precursors are Category 2. 

After the fall of the Gaddafi regime, the new Libyan government declared additional quantities of Category 1 chemicals to the OPCW. (See ACT, June 2012.) The stockpiles declared in November 2011 and February 2012 were omitted from Libya’s initial declarations when it ratified the CWC. 

Libya completed the destruction of its most dangerous stocks of chemicals, primarily sulfur mustard, in-country in 2014 and set a deadline of December 2016 for the destruction of the precursors. 

Libya initially raised the issue of international assistance in removing the precursors during the international effort to remove chemical weapons from Syria in 2013-2014, but other countries said that the precursors posed little threat, Walker said. “However, more recent violence not far from Libya’s chemical stocks raised alarm bells again in 2015-16, and fortunately Libya was able to move the chemicals to a port,” he said. 

Danish Commodore Torben Mikkelsen inspects the containment equipment September 6 en route to Germany, where the chemicals are due to be destroyed. (Photo credit: Defence Command Denmark)The destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons outside of Syria set a precedent for transporting the precursors out of Libya for destruction. The CWC normally requires a state to destroy stocks within their territory. 

A number of countries contributed financial and technical support for the transport of chemicals from Libya to Germany for destruction. The state-owned German company GEKA will handle the destruction at a specialized facility in Munster under OPCW monitoring. 

Elizabeth Trudeau, director of the press office at the U.S. State Department, said in a Sept. 9 press briefing that the United States fully supported the Libyan request for international assistance and contributed $5 million and logistical support for the international effort. 

Denmark led a multicountry operation to ship the precursors from the Libyan port of Misrata to Bremen, Germany. A Danish ship collected the chemicals on Aug. 27, with the United Kingdom providing a military escort ship and Finland and Italy providing additional support. 

Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said in an Aug. 31 statement that Denmark was proud to contribute to an effort to “support a more stable Libya” and a “safer world free of chemical weapons.” Jensen noted that the removal of the chemicals from Libya “ensured that they will not fall into the wrong hands.” 

The elimination of the Libyan chemical weapons program “marks an important step forward in completing safe and irreversible destruction of national stockpiles of chemical weapons,” he said.

The Libyan and Syrian cases demonstrate that the international community can organize to “rid the world of dangerous arsenals in a timely and safe manner,” Walker said. Yet, four countries—Egypt, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan—remain outside of the CWC and some of them are “suspected” of having chemical weapons arsenals, “so we still face obstacles in truly universalizing the abolition regime,” he said.

The precursor chemicals were shipped to Germany for destruction, assuring that militia groups or terrorists in Libya wouldn’t be able to seize them. 

Libya Finishes Destroying Mustard Agent

Daniel Horner

Libya has destroyed its last remaining stockpiles of sulfur mustard, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced in a Feb. 4 press release.

With the completion of the effort, which was marked with a Feb. 4 press conference in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, Libya has destroyed the last of its declared material designated as “Category 1” under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). That category covers chemicals that pose the highest risk. The recently destroyed material was considered particularly important and sensitive because it had been loaded into munitions, which were destroyed along with the sulfur mustard.

Under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya joined the CWC in 2004, declaring 24.7 metric tons of sulfur mustard, all of it in the form of bulk agent. It began destroying its stockpiles of sulfur mustard in October 2010 and was able to eliminate about 13.5 metric tons before a heating unit in the disposal facility broke down in February 2011. The breakdown came at about the same time as the beginning of the protests that ultimately toppled Gaddafi later that year.

Shortly after coming to power, the new Libyan government declared additional quantities of items and material related to chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard. Unlike the previously declared stocks, the new ones were in “artillery projectiles and aerial bombs,” as the OPCW described it in the Feb. 4 release. That declaration brought the total of Category 1 material to 26.3 metric tons, according to the OPCW.

After the disposal facility resumed operation last year, Libya completed destruction of the bulk mustard agent in May. At the Tripoli press conference, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz said the destruction of the more recently declared material was finished on Jan. 26, according to the OPCW press release.

In comments posted on the OPCW website, Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü cited Canada, Germany, and the United States for their assistance to the Libyan effort. Representatives of those three countries joined Abdulaziz and Üzümcü at the Tripoli press conference.

Canada provided 6 million Canadian dollars ($5.4 million) to rebuild infrastructure at the destruction site and fund various aspects of the operation, while Germany and the United States provided destruction equipment, Üzümcü said. The U.S. assistance also covered a range of other areas, including safety and security, and Washington has offered to continue providing technical assistance in destroying the remaining polymerized mustard agent in canisters, Üzümcü said. Polymerized mustard agent is toxic, but cannot be used to fill chemical weapons, he said.

Libya has about 850 metric tons of Category 2 chemicals, about 60 percent of the declared quantity, that it still must destroy, Üzümcü said.

Libya, along with Russia and the United States, was one of three declared possessors of chemical weapons that did not meet the CWC deadline of April 29, 2012, for destroying all of its arsenal. Syria, which now is in the process of destroying its chemical arsenal, was not a CWC party in 2012.

At the time, Libya agreed on a schedule under which it would complete destruction of Category 2 material by 2016. (See ACT, June 2012.) Üzümcü said in his comments he was “confident” Libya could meet the schedule.

Libya has destroyed its last remaining stockpiles of sulfur mustard, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced in a Feb. 4 press release.

Libyan Uranium Stocks Flagged for IAEA

Kelsey Davenport

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team planned to visit Libya in December to verify the country’s stockpile of uranium yellowcake, a UN official reported to the Security Council.

Tarek Mitri, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council on Dec. 9 that he received information from the Libyan government indicating that 6,400 barrels of uranium yellowcake are being stored at a former military facility in the south under the control of an army battalion. He said an IAEA inspection team was to visit the site in December to verify the “conditions of storage” and size of the stockpile.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for confirmation that the visit took place. A team from the agency last visited the site in 2011.

The announcement of the IAEA visit came a month after Russia expressed concern over the security of the Libyan yellowcake. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told Russian news outlets Nov. 4 that he “mentioned the problem” of security for the stockpile of yellowcake during Security Council consultations and requested that the body ask Libya to take “practical steps to remedy the situation.”

Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN, Eugene-Richard Gasana, who chairs the Security Council committee that oversees sanctions imposed on Libya, told the Security Council on Dec. 9 that a UN panel of experts concluded that the yellowcake “posed no significant security risk” because it would require “extensive processing” before it could be used for civil or weapons purposes. The panel is charged with overseeing the implementation of sanctions imposed on Libya in connection with the civil war in February 2011 under UN Security Council Resolution 1970.

Yellowcake, which is concentrated uranium ore, represents an early step in the process of creating fuel for power reactors or nuclear weapons. Once natural uranium ore is mined, it undergoes a milling process to turn it into yellowcake, which then must be processed into a gaseous form, uranium hexafluoride, before it can be enriched.

Under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Libya ratified in 1975, the country is prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi covertly pursued a nuclear weapons program that began in the 1970s and lasted until 2003. In December of that year, Libya agreed to dismantle its covert nuclear weapons facilities and disclose information about its other programs for nonconventional weapons. As part of that agreement, Libya released information about the importation of 2,263 metric tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger between 1978 and 1981. Of that amount, only 1,000 metric tons were declared to the IAEA.

The remainder was for use in covert uranium-enrichment activities. Yellowcake stockpiles must be declared if a state has an additional protocol as part of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. An additional protocol expands the scope and access that the agency has to a state’s nuclear facilities.

Although the last of Libya’s enriched uranium was removed in 2009, the stockpiles of yellowcake remained in the country.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team planned to visit Libya in December to verify the country’s stockpile of uranium yellowcake, a UN official reported to the Security Council.

Libya Sets Date to Destroy Chemical Arms

Daniel Horner

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The meeting of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) came days after the date by which all parties to the treaty were to have destroyed their holdings of chemical weapons. It had been known for years that Russia and the United States, which held the vast majority of the chemical weapons that were declared when the CWC entered into force in 1997, would not meet the deadline of April 29, 2012.

In a document adopted at their annual meeting last year, the treaty parties essentially recognized that those two countries and Libya would miss the deadline, but said they should complete the work “in the shortest time possible.” The document also spelled out reporting and monitoring requirements for the destruction work, including a requirement for a “detailed plan” that specifies “the planned completion date.” (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

Under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, Libya joined the CWC in 2004. It began destroying its chemical stockpiles in October 2010 and was able to destroy about 13.5 metric tons—slightly more than half—of its supply of Category 1 chemical weapons before a heating unit in the disposal facility broke down in February 2011. Under the CWC, Category 1 covers agents, such as the chemicals sarin, soman, and VX, that are considered to pose the highest risk.

The breakdown occurred at about the same time as the beginning of the protests that ultimately toppled the Gaddafi regime. Chemical weapons destruction has not yet resumed, OPCW spokesman Michael Luhan said in a May 29 e-mail to Arms Control Today. “The destruction facility has been repaired but additional infrastructure work and security arrangements must be completed by the Libyan authorities before OPCW inspectors can be deployed on-site and operations resumed,” he said.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü discussed the destruction program in a May 27 meeting in Tripoli with Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Saad Ben Khaial, “who expressed his strong commitment that Libyan authorities will continue to closely coordinate with the OPCW on these operations,” Luhan said.

Last November and this February, the new Libyan government declared additional quantities of Category 1 and Category 3 chemical weapons to the OPCW. Luhan said the newly declared weapons included “several hundred” munitions loaded with sulfur mustard agent together with a few hundred kilograms of sulfur mustard stored in plastic containers.

Libya has declared a total of 26.3 metric tons of Category 1 weapons and has destroyed 13.5 metric tons, according to the documents distributed at the meeting. The remaining 12.8 metric tons are to be destroyed by December 2013.

According to the documents, the Category 3 weapons—a category that includes unfilled munitions, devices, and equipment designed specifically for use with chemical weapons agents—would be destroyed by May 2013. Category 2 weapons, precursor chemicals, would be destroyed by December 2016. Libya, which already has destroyed 556 metric tons of Category 2 weapons, has another 846 metric tons to destroy, according to the documents.

Russia has previously said it plans to complete its destruction by the end of 2015. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) The United States recently extended its timetable by two years, from 2021 to 2023. (See ACT, May 2012.)

According to OPCW figures circulated at the meeting, the United States had, as of April 29, destroyed 24,924 metric tons of its 27,769 metric tons of declared Category 1 weapons. That figure does not include another 1,434 metric tons that the United States destroyed prior to the CWC’s entry into force. Russia had destroyed 24,961 metric tons of its declared total of 39,967 metric tons.

The documents circulated at the May meeting also provide a timetable for the destruction of so-called abandoned chemical weapons in China, which are a legacy of Japan’s occupation of the country during World War II. Under that schedule, the goal is to destroy by 2016 the chemical weapons at locations other than Haerbaling in northeastern China. The target date for the weapons at Haerbaling, where more than 300,000 chemical munitions are estimated to be buried, is 2022.

Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Accord Reached on CWC’s 2012 Deadline

Daniel Horner

Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 1 to approve a document that reaffirms the importance of the treaty’s April 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles but does not say countries that failed to meet the deadline would be violating the terms of the pact.

Under the CWC, possessors of chemical weapons must eliminate their stockpiles by April 29, 2012, which marks the 15th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. However, Russia and the United States, whose chemical stockpiles are by far the world’s largest, have acknowledged they will not be able to meet the deadline.

The decision on the 2012 deadline also includes Libya, which recently told the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) it would not be able to complete its destruction by April. (See ACT, December 2011.) The OPCW is the international body that implements the CWC.

The Dec. 1 decision document notes statements by the three countries of their “unequivocal commitment” to their treaty obligations and “tak[es] note that the inability to fully meet the final extended deadline” is “due to reasons that are unrelated to the commitment of these States Parties to the[ir] General Obligations” under the CWC.

In comments last May on the Russian and U.S. stockpiles, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü cited the “massive” size of those stocks and said that “[t]he efforts and resources required for their elimination in conditions of safety and environmental sensitivity were no less daunting and perhaps underestimated at the time when the convention was drafted.”

The December document says that if the possessor states fail to meet the deadline, they should complete the destruction “in the shortest time possible.” According to the document, each state should “submit a detailed plan” that “specif[ies] the planned completion date by which the destruction of its remaining chemical weapons is to be completed.” The document also spells out reporting and monitoring requirements for the ongoing destruction work.

The vote, which came during the week-long annual meeting of CWC parties in The Hague, was 101-1. Decisions on the CWC generally have been made by consensus, but there have been a few previous exceptions.

Iranian Objection

Iran was the “no” vote. For months, there has been near unanimity on the approach represented by the document, with only Iran opposing it. (See ACT, October 2011.) In the days before the vote, Iran and the United States engaged in a sharp rhetorical exchange over the 2012 deadline.

In his opening statement at the meeting, Iranian Ambassador to the OPCW Kazem Gharib Abadi said, “It is unfortunate that the United States has explicitly stated that it cannot meet the deadline, which is a clear-cut case of non-compliance.” Washington “has set a bad precedent,” “has never committed itself to non-use” of weapons of mass destruction, and “is determined to establish another discriminatory system in the international organizations,” he said. He did not mention Russia.

In his Nov. 29 response, Robert Mikulak, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, decried the “patently false” rhetoric in Iran’s “political rant.”

In a Dec. 19 interview, Sergey Batsanov, former chief Soviet and Russian negotiator during talks on the CWC and later director of special projects for the OPCW, said the language of the decision indicates the parties’ desire to say that “things [with regard to the deadline] are not going as the convention demanded” and that “such things do not go unnoticed.” Nevertheless, the document shows that the parties had little desire to punish Moscow and Washington or impose additional conditions; rather, the two countries are being “allowed and encouraged to do their job, the sooner the better,” he said.

Although the best outcome would have been for all chemical weapons possessors to have destroyed their entire stockpiles by the deadline, the solution was a good one “under the circumstances,” said Batsanov, who now is director of the Geneva office of International Pugwash. It reflects a “mature attitude” by a wide variety of countries with “different degrees of love and hate” for Russia and the United States, he said.

As for Iran’s dissent, he said it seemed to have much more to do with the controversy over Tehran’s nuclear program than with any chemical weapons issues. Although it would have been better to have had a consensus decision, it ultimately does not make a big difference for the CWC regime, he said, adding that the Iranians’ actions were “not very productive from their own perspective.”

Extension for Libya

Batsanov said he would have thought the parties’ decision could have focused on Russia and the United States without bringing in Libya, whose circumstances were somewhat different. However, he said, the decision is “fine.”

Libya had begun destroying its sulfur mustard stocks in October 2010 and was moving ahead with that work until a heating component of the neutralization unit malfunctioned in February 2011. The unrest in Libya that began around the same time prevented resumption of the work, in part because a UN embargo imposed on the country blocked delivery of the needed replacement part. The embargo no longer is in effect.

In late November, the new Libyan government updated its original CWC declaration to include chemical weapons materials at two previously undisclosed sites. Libya joined the CWC in 2004 under the regime of Moammar Gaddafi.

Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 1 to approve a document that reaffirms the importance of the treaty’s April 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles but does not say countries that failed to meet the deadline would be violating the terms of the pact.

UN Backs Libya MANPADS Effort

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.

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.


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