NATO concerned by report of missing Libya missiles

NATO expressed concern on Monday about a report that thousands of surface-to-air missiles had gone missing in Libya, and said it was the responsibility of the new authorities there to ensure weapons stocks were properly controlled.

The online edition of Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported on Sunday that the head of NATO's military committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, told German lawmakers in a confidential briefing last week NATO had lost track of 10,000 surface-to-air missiles that had been in Libyan army hands.

The magazine said Di Paola had expressed worries that the weapons could fall into the hands of al Qaeda militants and be used to attack civilian airlines.

The admiral's spokesman declined to comment on the report, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was not NATO policy to comment "on a specific intelligence matter".

However he added: "Of course, in general it is a matter of concern if stockpiles of weapons are not properly controlled and monitored."

"It is the responsibility of the National Transitional Council to ensure that stocks of weapons in Libya are appropriately controlled," he said, referring to Libya's new administration after the ouster of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Rasmussen said representatives of individual NATO states had been in contact with the NTC "to ensure they address this issue effectively".

A senior NATO official said the United States and other NATO states were working with the NTC to ensure that weapons, including from Libya's large stock of portable surface-to-air missiles, were secure.

"We take this very seriously," he said. "We are spending a lot of time with the NTC to make sure weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

[Source: Reuters, Brussels, 03Oct11]

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