US helping secure Libya arms stockpiles: White House

Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters
© AFP Karim Sahib

AFP

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AFP) – The United States is working closely with Libya’s new interim leaders to secure all arms stockpiles, amid concerns over weapons proliferation, the White House said Tuesday.

“Since the beginning of the crisis we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s effort to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles including recovery, control and disposal of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We are exploring every option to expand our support,” he told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama toured western states.

US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign in Libya, said in early April that there were fears that militants could seize some of the estimated 20,000 shoulder-launched missiles in Libya, calling it “a regional and an international concern.”

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The proliferation of arms raided from the vast stores of ex-strongman Moamer Kadhafi is raising fears not only for Libya’s future stability, but also that the weapons will fall into the hands of radical groups like Al-Qaeda.

Many of the weapons have made their way into the hands of fighters for Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) struggling to take the remaining bastions of Kadhafi support.

Carney said five contractor specialists were on the ground to work with the new Libyan leadership to secure weapons stockpiles.

Carney’s comments came as Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to equip wide-body passenger jets with anti-missile countermeasures.

“While many US military aircraft are outfitted with defenses against these deadly weapons, commercial aircraft remain at risk,” she said in the letter, which her office made public.

“Recent reporting of unaccounted for missiles in Libya is yet another reminder of this threat,” said Boxer, who praised the Obama administration’s “strong policies” to secure those weapons.

The US State Department has provided $3 million to help destroy weapons and raised particular concern over the spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), which could be used to target civilian aircraft.

© AFP — Published at Activist Post with license

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