Don Mahley on Libyan BW Program, 2004

The other day, I posted a excerpt from a November 2004 piece by the late Ambassador Donald Mahley. That excerpt discussed Libya’s CW program, but the article also has good material about Libya’s BW program:

Libya seems to have contemplated a biological weapons program. To support such contemplation, Libya decided to procure a dual capable facility, ostensibly for public health-related research, that would provide the option to pursue biological weapons research as decisions about such research were made. The Libyan scientific personnel charged with actually procuring the capability were not necessarily informed of the diverse purposes to which such a capability might be put – which is indicative of the broader international difficulty of pursuing biological weapons proliferators. All the elements of a biological weapons program, with the possible exception of specialized munitions and munitions filling equipment, also have peaceful uses. So it is entirely possible to conceal, even from your own personnel who might be working at a dual-use facility, the full range of purposes to which the facility might be put.

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The second success is more subtle. I indicated earlier that Libya had been unable to obtain the dual-purpose capabilities it sought in biology, potentially to become the foundation of a biological weapons program. Everyone should  understand that the capabilities in question are not uniquely biological-weapons oriented. In fact, they were the kind of laboratory and research facilities that many countries have as part of their general medical capabilities to improve the health of national populations. The Libyan scientists pursuing this capability, in part possibly because they were not told about the potential diversion of capability, sought to contract laboratory construction with Western firms, where they had faith in quality control and delivery reliability. When they attempted to finalize the contract, however, the contacted firm declined once the location of construction was revealed, citing, according to Libyan officials, the problem of providing a country (Libya) under sanctions with the dual-capable equipment and facilities specified in the request. While this outcome illuminates the potentially draconian effect of sanctions when applied (the purpose of the construction could equally have been purely humanitarian), it is a rare revelation of how stringent sanctions programs must be in order to impinge on the kinds of covert and dual-purpose capability building rogue states can conduct.

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