Libya has asked the global chemical weapons watchdog to draw up plans to ship a stockpile of 850 tonnes of chemicals overseas due to deteriorating security, sources have told Reuters.
Diplomats and officials said that transporting the toxins abroad for destruction, as was recently done in Syria, is the most viable option to keep them out of the hands of battling militant groups.
Since the removal of Muammar Gaddafi three years ago, the country has descended into anarchy, with rival militias and hardline Islamic groups battling for political control and vast oil reserves.
Facilities to destroy the chemical weapons were set up and Libyans were trained to use the equipment, but fighting threatens stability and has made it impossible to safely conduct their work.
Experts at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which won the Nobel Peace prize this year, are “working on something right now,” one source told Reuters.
The technical details still need to be worked out and the OPCW on Tuesday declined to comment.
The OPCW said Tripoli has already destroyed weapons that were ready for use including armed munitions and the most deadly, or “category 1,” toxins with the help of Western countries, but still has around 850 tonnes of industrial chemicals that could be used to produce weapons.
An armed group from the western city of Misrata seized Tripoli in August, forcing the elected parliament and senior officials to move to the east.
This week, soldiers and police clashed near Libya’s biggest El Sharara oilfield in the south, while separate fighting erupted in the west not far from the Zawiya refinery.