WASHINGTON – As the world watches deposed Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's forces take their last stand in Tripoli, western intelligence officials are trying to follow the trail of Libya's chemical weapons arsenal, and especially its mustard gas caches.
In an interview with CNN, United States Envoy to the UN Susan Rice said that the US was takign steps to prevent the weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
Gaddafi's final days:
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that their were many dangers in store for the Libyan people in the days ahead, adding that regime loyalists "have a great deal of weapons... thousands of fighters are still receiving salaries from Gaddafi."
Most of Libya's chemical weapons are held at a facility located in Rabta, south of Tripoli. Western analysts believe that the country's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal alone contains some 10 tons of various chemical agents which can inflict grave damage. It is also believed that Gaddafi was in possession of Scud-B missiles, over 1,000 tons of uranium powder and mass quantities of conventional weapons.
Where are the weapons? (Photo: AP)
Over the last few weeks, US, British and French diplomats have been holding talks with senior members of the Libyan Interim National Council (NTC) over ways to secure the chemical weapons arsenal immediately after the fall of Gaddafi's regime.
The Americans and their NATO partners are observing Libya via satellite, drones and other aircraft used to gather intelligence. The US and other countries also have intelligence personnel placed on the ground in Libya, tasked with aiding Libyan opposition factions in securing the chemical weapons' sites.
It is possible that NATO has personnel placed within the arsenals themselves, though this has not been confirmed.
Libya had previously signed a historic agreement with the George W. Bush administration, under which it must take action to destroy its WMDs in exchange for normalizing ties with the US.
Gaddafi sent the US the blueprints of the infrastructure for his nuclear plan and destroyed all long range missiles. He also destroyed 3,300 aircraft designed to disperse the chemical weapons.
In 2004 Tripoli joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) yet US sources claim that Libyan plans to halt production of chemical weapons and destroy chemical weapons arsenals were held up due to disputes between Libya and the US over funding an logistics.