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  Latest News  
  October 25,  2004
Volume 82, Number 43
p. 13


  Altering A Treaty
Libya wants to convert an old weapons plant into one that makes drugs

NEW USE Satellite image shows Libya's Rabta facility.


Libya has received support for its request to amend the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention so that it can convert a former chemical weapons production facility into a civilian pharmaceutical plant.

The 41-member Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the treaty, unanimously recommended the technical change. To take effect, the request now must be considered by all nations party to the treaty. If no nation objects, the "change is considered adopted," OPCW spokesman Peter Kaiser says.

Approval is expected by December and is strongly supported by the U.S. The change is viewed as an incentive to get other nations to join the treaty. As Eric M. Javits, head of the U.S. delegation to OPCW explained at the Executive Council meeting, the change "will work not just for Libya, but for any future acceding state that may possess a chemical weapons production facility and legitimately wish to convert it for [peaceful] purposes."

As it now stands, the treaty requires all nations party to the pact to have destroyed their production facilities or to have converted them to peaceful purposes by April 29, 2003, six years after the treaty took effect in 1997. Libya, however, didn't join the treaty until this February, after it renounced its weapons of mass destruction programs in December 2003.

Libya wants to convert its Rabta facility, which once produced sulfur mustard agent, to a plant that will make low-cost drugs to treat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis in Africa and in other parts of the developing world. Javits said the U.S. placed "great importance" on adopting the treaty change "not only for the immediate" health benefits that will accrue, "but for the contribution it will make toward achieving universal adherence to the convention." Sixteen other nations--including the U.K. and a number of nonaligned countries--also support the amendment.

The treaty requires that the converted facility be monitored for 10 years to verify that no illicit production of chemical weapons occurs, Kaiser says.

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004

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