TRIPOLI, Libya, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The last of the chemical weapons Libya had under Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed in 2011, have been destroyed, U.S. and Libyan officials said.
For the past three months, the United States and Libya used a transportable oven technology to destroy hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds filled with deadly mustard gas U.S. officials said they feared could fall into terrorists' hands, the New York Times reported.
"It's a big breakthrough," Paul F. Walker, an arms control expert with the environmental group Green Cross International, told the Times. "Even though Libya's chemical stockpile was relatively small, the effort to destroy it was very difficult because of weather, geography and because it's a dangerous area with warring tribes, increasing the risks of theft and diversion."
The disposal of the last of Libya's chemical weapons last week ended what began when the Gadhafi government in 2004 turned over a cache of nuclear technology and chemical stockpiles to the United States, Britain and international nuclear inspectors.
At that time, Libya declared it would destroy 24.7 metric tons of sulfur mustard, but when a new government took control last fall it announced it found two more caches of mustard that hadn't been declared by Gadhafi's government, raising the amount to 26.3 tons, the Times said.
Destroying the weapons was an international project.
The Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program contributed $45 million to the Parsons Corp., a construction firm based in Pasadena, Calif., to work with Libya in the rebuilding and safeguarding of the disposal site ransacked during Libya's civil war, the Times reported.
Canada donated $6 million to help restore water, sewage service and electricity to the site, and to build living quarters for contractors. Germany flew international inspectors to the site. The Swedish company Dynasafe built the device to destroy the weapons.
"This is the culmination of a major international effort to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Libya and to ensure that they never fall into the hands of terrorists," said Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs.
An international effort to destroy Syria's considerably larger chemical weapons stockpile has fallen behind schedule, but the White House said it would ensure the Syrian government complies with a deal to give up its chemical arsenal despite missed deadlines and delays.