Libya marks destruction of last chemical arms - watchdog

OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu looks on in this file photo. He said that the destruction of the chemical arms “heralds the end of Libya's chemical demilitarisation process”. (Reuters)
Updated 11 January 2018
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Libya marks destruction of last chemical arms - watchdog

THE HAGUE: Libya marked the destruction of its last toxic arms Thursday, hailed by the world's chemical weapons watchdog as a "historic occasion" to make the world a safer place.
The final destruction of some 500 metric tonnes of chemical products at a facility based in Munster in western Germany, was a "historic occasion for disarmament and security," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.
"It heralds the end of Libya's chemical demilitarisation process and another step towards fulfilling the core goal of the Chemical Weapons Convention - the complete and permanent eradication of all chemical weapons," director-general Ahmet Uzumcu said in a statement.
The stocks, including 23 tanks of chemicals, were shipped out on a Danish vessel on August 30, 2016, from the Libyan port of Misrata, under the supervision of the United Nations.
The chemical weapons reached the highly specialised facility operated by GEKA, Germany's state-owned company for disposing of chemical weapons, in September 2016.
The OPCW verified the complete destruction of the materials at GEKA on November 23 last year, the OPCW said Thursday at a ceremony held in Munster.
The removal of the dangerous weapons precursors greatly eased fears that extremists like so-called Islamic State terrorists could gain access to the weapons in Libya, which has been wracked by upheaval since the 2011 overthrow of its longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Uzumcu said the "extraordinary" operation to destroy the chemicals "necessitated agility, creativity and above all, close international cooperation."
Libya joined the UN convention banning chemical weapons in 2004 as part of Kadhafi's ultimately abortive efforts to shake off the country's pariah status and mend ties with the West.
At the time Libya joined the convention, it declared 24.7 tonnes of sulphur mustard, 1,390 tonnes of precursor chemicals and more than 3,500 aerial bombs containing chemical weapons.
"The destruction of Libya's remaining Category 2 chemical weapons in the GEKA facility brought the total amount of the Libyan category 2 chemical weapons destroyed to 100 percent," the OPCW said.
"Libya had previously destroyed all of its category 1 and 3 chemical weapons," it added.
More than 96 percent of the world's declared chemical stockpiles have now been destroyed under verification by the OPCW - which received the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its work.


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.