Libya needs no war chemicals – Libyan FM Mohamed Abdul Aziz
What do you think of Russia’s initiative on war chemicals in Syria?
We’ll throw our weight behind any decision that will benefit the people of Syria. Russia’s initiative on war chemicals in Syria should be seen in package with the related problems. The situation is not just about putting Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control and the subsequent destruction of these weapons. Efforts should also be made to track down and punish those guilty of using war chemicals in Syria. Those who are to blame should certainly be punished. Just putting chemical weapons under international control is insufficient. I said as much when talking with my Russian opposite number, Sergei Lavrov, yesterday. As Libya’s Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Arab League Council of Ministers I must say in all fairness that we do denounce the use of war chemicals and urge that the people of Syria be protected. We appeal for a UN Security Council resolution on protecting the civilian population in Syria. In Libya, the international community acted in concert, and we believe that this kind of foreign intervention yielded positive results, for we got rid of our dictator. Also, the Syrian opposition should be invited to take part in the work on the initiative in question, since otherwise the Syrian crisis will never be settled.
Libya is also known to possess war chemicals. The new Libyan leaders have already pointed out they want to get rid of these chemical weapons. When do you think you will start scrapping these weapons?
Libya has made a sovereign decision that these weapons should be scrapped. We need no war chemicals. We are currently closely cooperating with international experts from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. We have joined the Organization. Preparations for scrapping war chemicals in Libya have hit the home stretch. Libya signed a protocol on mutual understanding and cooperation with the United States in the area a few days ago. The United States and Germany, but basically the United States will help us scrap the Libyan chemical weapons. We need state-of-the-art technologies for we are sincerely concerned about environmental safety. We are glad that we are getting assistance. The United States will both provide us with these kinds of technologies and will pay 80% of the cost of chemical weapons destruction. This will cost us a pretty penny. Our chemical depots are located in the south of Libya, and we are due to shortly start scrapping the stockpile in question. We are sure that the war chemicals are safely controlled, so any hazardous substance leaks are ruled out.
Photo: Elelna Suponina/ "The Voice of Russia"
Is the United Nations in control of the process?
The scrapping of chemical weapons in Libya is not under the immediate control of the United Nations, but we report to the UN on the issue on a regular basis. Libya has been actively cooperating with international experts in the area and is prepared to go ahead with that cooperation. This further adds to the international image of the new Libya.
In Moscow you have taken up prospects for military cooperation, among other things. What kinds of arms will you buy from Russia in the first place?
We are setting up Libya’s Defence Ministry from scratch. Tripoli considers purchases of Russian-made arms on the basis of its own priorities. Now, our top priority is ensuing security in Libya and along the perimeter of the national border. So, we will first of all buy the weapons that will meet this need. But Libya seeks to diversify the sources of arms supplies. We don’t want to buy arms just in France, the US or Italy. We also take account of the fact that Russia has been Libya’s longstanding partner in the field of armaments. Mind you, Moscow supplied weapons for all services of our armed forces, namely the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. We are open for cooperation with Russia in the field of armaments.
Is it safe to claim that your talks in Moscow are part of preparations for a visit to Russia by the Libyan Prime Minister?
Yes, that visit is in the making. But we should give concrete substance to it. We hope that in the next few months we will work thoroughly on the issues we have just discussed in Moscow. And then the Libyan Prime Minister will pay his visit to Moscow. This will, beyond doubt, give impetus to the development of Russian-Libyan relations.