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.


Lebanon denies forcing Syrians home from Beirut airport

Updated 44 min 49 sec ago
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Lebanon denies forcing Syrians home from Beirut airport

  • Lebanon’s General Security agency “categorically denies it forced any Syrian to sign any form,” it said in a statement
  • General Security estimates that over 170,000 Syrians returned home from Lebanon between December 2017 and March 2019

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces on Saturday denied accusations by rights groups that they had coerced Syrians who had landed at Beirut airport into signing forms to return to their war-torn country.
Human Rights Watch and four other groups Friday accused Lebanon of “summarily deporting” at least 16 Syrians on April 26, after forcing them to sign “voluntary repatriation forms.”
Most of them had been sent back to Lebanon after they were barred from entering northern Cyprus via Turkey, quashing their plans to seek asylum, HRW said.
But Lebanon’s General Security agency “categorically denies it forced any Syrian to sign any form,” it said in a statement carried by state-run news agency NNA on Saturday.
“Any Syrian who arrives in Lebanon and does not meet entry requirements, and... wants to go to Syria because they do not wish to remain in their country of residence for a number of reasons, signs a declaration of responsibility for choosing to return voluntarily,” it said.
Lebanon hosts almost one million Syrian refugees, a significant burden for a country that had 4.5 million inhabitants before the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.
The latest deportees said they were “pressured” by General Security officers at the airport, the rights group said.
Around 30 Syrians have been deported from Beirut airport this year by the General Security agency, the rights group said, citing local refugee organizations.
General Security estimates that over 170,000 Syrians returned home from Lebanon between December 2017 and March 2019.
The conflict has wound down in Syria, after a string of victories by the regime and its Russian ally since 2015, but the United Nations has stressed all returns should be voluntary.
The rights groups say some 74 percent of Syrians in Lebanon lack legal residency and are at risk of detention.
Local media in Lebanon have reported that the Supreme Defense Council, whose decisions are not made public, recently instructed General Security to deport all Syrians who have entered the country illegally.
The official NNA news agency, quoting a “security report,” said Friday that Lebanese authorities had deported 301 Syrians between May 7 and May 20.
Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions inside the country and abroad.
The war was triggered in March 2011 by a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.