Libya and weapons of mass destruction
|Nuclear program start date||1969|
|First nuclear weapon test||None|
|First fusion weapon test||None|
|Last nuclear test||None|
|Largest yield test||None|
|Current stockpile||None; the program was dismantled in 2003.|
|Maximum missile range||300 km (Scud-B)|
|Weapons of mass destruction|
WMD world map
Libya possesses chemical weapons and ballistic missiles and previously pursued nuclear weapons under the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi. On 19 December 2003, Gaddafi announced that Libya would voluntarily eliminate all materials, equipment and programs that could lead to internationally proscribed weapons, including weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missiles. Libya signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1975, and concluded a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1980. The United States and the United Kingdom assisted Libya in removing equipment and material from its nuclear weapons program, with independent verification by the IAEA. Libya acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention effective 5 February 2004 and destroyed its chemical munitions later that year, but missed the deadlines for converting one chemical weapons production facility to peaceful use and for destroying its stockpile of mustard agent.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2012)|
Libya signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in July 1968, under King Idris, ratified it in 1975 under Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and concluded a safeguards agreement in 1980. In 1981, the Soviet Union supplied a 10 MW research reactor at Tajura. Colonel Gaddafi began to look at the illicit nuclear proliferation networks and various black market sources, including Swiss nuclear engineer Friedrich Tinner.
In 1970, in a meeting with Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China, Colonel Gaddafi made a failed attempt to purchase nuclear weapons from China. In 1974, while attending the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Lahore, Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (the Prime minister of Pakistan at that time) delegated Libya to participate in its clandestine program, Project-706. By the time Libyan technicians joined this program, Bhutto was executed by order of the Pakistan Supreme Court. The new Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) General Zia-ul-Haque distrusted and disliked Colonel Gaddafi, and Libyan scientists were carefully removed from participation in the project as they were told to leave the country immediately. During this time, Libyan Intelligence made attempts to infiltrate Pakistan's high-powered research institutes, but were thwarted by ISI who intercepted and arrested these Libyan agents.
Libya then turned to India, an arch rival of Pakistan, for nuclear assistance. In 1978, Libyan agents tried unsuccessfully to persuade India to sell Libya nuclear weapons. However, as part of India's Atoms for Peace program, a nuclear energy pact was signed by Libya and India, but it is unclear how much interaction and cooperation took place.  Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Libya continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons from various sources. In the 1970s, Libya pursued the uranium enrichment process and made an effort to gain access to uranium ore, uranium conversion facilities, and enrichment technologies that together would have enabled Libya to produce weapons-grade uranium. The approach failed in 1979, and in 1980 Libya decided to pursue a plutonium-based pathway to nuclear weapons. Libya imported 1,200 tons of uranium ore concentrate from French-controlled mines in Niger without declaring it to the IAEA, as required by its safeguards agreement. In 1982, Libya attempted to purchase a plant for manufacturing uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) from Belgium. At the time, Libya had no declared nuclear facilities that required uranium tetrafluoride, and the purchase was refused.
In 1980, Friedrich Tinner, a Swiss nuclear engineer from Switzerland and former IAEA employee, began to conduct experiments at the TNRF aimed at producing gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Tinner completed his work in 1992, but Libya remained unable to produce an operating centrifuge. In 1995, Tinner returned to Libya and tried to restart the program. In 1997, Tinner began to receive technical assistance from various sources, as Libya had made a strategic decision to start the program with a new attitude.  Libya employed a large number of black market sources. In 1997, Libya received 20 pre-assembled L-1 centrifuges and components for an additional 200 L-1 centrifuges and related parts from foreign suppliers. One of the 20 pre-assembled rotors was used to install a completed single centrifuge at the Al Hashan site, which was first successfully tested in October 2000. Libya reported to the IAEA that no nuclear material had been used during tests on the L-1 centrifuges.
In 2000, Libya accelerated its efforts, still headed by Tinner. Libya began to order centrifuges and components from other countries with the intention of installing a centrifuge plant to make enriched uranium. Libya received many documents on the design and operation of centrifuges, but the program suffered many setbacks in evaluating these designs as they were too difficult to interpret and bring into operation. Libya ultimately told IAEA investigators that it had no national personnel competent to evaluate these designs at that time, and due to its extreme difficulty, Libya would have had to ask the supplier for help if it had decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. 
In 1981, the Soviet Union agreed to build a nuclear facility in Tajura, Libya, under IAEA safeguards. The Libyan nuclear program repeatedly suffered under mismanagement and loss of academic generation. The Tajura facility was run under the Soviet experts and staffed by a small number of inexperienced Libyan specialists and technicians. Known as the Tajura Nuclear Research Facility (TNRF), Libya conducted illegal uranium conversion experiments there. An unnamed nuclear weapon state, whose name has been kept secret by the IAEA, also allegedly assisted Libya in these experiments. Nuclear expert David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said the Soviet Union and China were the most likely suspects.
In 1984, Libya negotiated with the Soviet Union for a supply of nuclear power plants, but its out-of-date technology dissatisfied Colonel Gaddafi. Gaddafi negotiated with Belgium but the talks failed. In 1984, Libya negotiated with Japan for a pilot-scale uranium conversion facility. A Japanese company supplied Libya with the technology, and the sale was apparently arranged directly with the Japanese instead of through middlemen.
In 2003, U.S. intelligence agencies raided a cargo ship and seized a consignment of centrifuge-related equipment bound for Libya in a northern Mediterranean port. The U.S. investigations revealed that many of these components were manufactured by the Scomi Precision Engineering facility in Malaysia and were produced under the technical guidance of Dr. A.Q. Khan and various nationals from the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland. After the news became public, Libyan nuclear ambitions were cooled and demoralized.
According to some analysts, the 11 September 2001 attacks, which Gaddafi denounced, and the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq increased Libya's desire to make peace with the United States. Libyan officials began to meet covertly with British, Russian, and U.S. officials to officially dismantle the program. In March 2003, days before the invasion of Iraq, Gaddafi's personal envoys contacted U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair about Libya's willingness to dismantle its nuclear program. Subsequently, at Gaddafi's direction, Libyan officials provided British, Russian, and U.S. diplomats with documentation and additional details on Libya's chemical, biological, nuclear, and ballistic missile activities. Libya reportedly allowed Russian, U.S., and British officials to visit 10 previously secret sites and dozens of Libyan laboratories and military factories to search for evidence of nuclear fuel cycle-related activities, and for chemical and missile programs.
On 19 December 2003, Gaddafi made a surprise announcement that he planned to dismantle the program. Libya agreed to destroy all of its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons. Libya provided the designs of centrifuges to U.S. officials and gave the name of its suppliers. The revelation led to the debriefing of Abdul Qadeer Khan, one of Pakistan's top scientists. In 2004, the United States, along with IAEA officials and Interpol, led the arrest of the Libyan nuclear program's former head Friedrich Tinner. On 22 January 2004, U.S. transport planes carried 55,000 pounds of documents and equipment related to Libya's nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In March 2004, over 1,000 additional centrifuge and missile parts were shipped out of Libya.
On 22 September 2011, near Sabha, Libya, toward the end of the Libyan civil war, anti-Gaddafi forces discovered two warehouses containing thousands of blue barrels marked with tape reading "radioactive" and plastic bags of yellow powder sealed with the same tape. The IAEA stated, "We can confirm that there is yellowcake stored in drums at a site near Sabha ... which Libya previously declared to the IAEA. ... The IAEA has tentatively scheduled safeguards activities at this location once the situation in the country stabilises."
Libya maintained a chemical weapons program under Gaddafi's rule, but it was ostensibly decommissioned in the 2000s and early 2010s as Gaddafi sought to normalise relations between the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Western world. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supervised the destruction of Libya's chemical weapons caches through February 2011, when it was forced to suspend its operations due to the uprising against Gaddafi and the resulting deterioration of the country's stability. In early September 2011, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Üzümcü said reports he had received indicated that the remaining weapons were secure and had not fallen into the hands of militant groups. A stockpile of mustard gas, which the OPCW reported the regime may have attempted to hide from inspectors overseeing the chemical weapons program's dismantlement, was reportedly found in the Jufra District by anti-Gaddafi fighters less than two weeks later.
Libya's National Transitional Council is cooperating with the OCPW regarding the destruction of all legacy chemical weapons in the country. After assessing the chemical stockpiles, the Libyan government will receive a deadline from the OPCW to destroy the weapons.
Libyan Army forces loyal to Gaddafi reportedly fired several Scud-B surface-to-surface missiles at areas in revolt against the regime, including Misrata and Ajdabiya, during the Libyan civil war, but the weapons missed their targets. Several more Scuds, with launchers, were found by anti-Gaddafi fighters near Tripoli and Sirte.
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- Libya's Ex-PM Held As Chemical Weapons Found
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