U.S.: Gadhafi Chemical, Nuclear Materials Secure

State Department says biggest concern is proliferation of anti-aircraft weapons.

August 25, 2011, 3:39 PM

Aug. 25, 2011 — -- American officials said today that Moammar Gadhafi's stock of chemical and nuclear materials are secure, amid fears they could fall into the wrong hands as the longtime leader's regime falls.

"Our judgment is that they remain secure," U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. "We have no reason to believe that there is anything else of that nature anywhere else."

U.S. officials, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said they are concerned the sensitive material could end up in the hands of terrorists in the unstable nation now that Gadhafi is on the run.

"Gadhafi did have some mustard agent," Nuland confirmed today. She said the deadly chemicals had been moved to an ammunition reservation where it is kept "inside massive steel containers, within heavy bunkers" that were sealed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

U.S. officials used "national technical means" to determine that, though some gas remained, it was accounted for and further found that any "sensitive elements of Libya's nuclear program" had been removed successfully from the country years before. The last of Gadhafi's highly enriched uranium, which could have been used to produce a nuclear bomb, were taken out of the country in 2009.

While Gadhafi did have some yellowcake nuclear material, that material is "safeguarded" in a Libyan nuclear research facility. In any event, Nuland said, "Libya doesn't have the means right now to turn yellowcake into anything dangerous."

With chemical and nuclear dangers out of the way, Nuland said the greatest concern to the U.S. was the proliferation of the Libyan military's powerful, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons known as MANPADS.

Chris Stevens, the U.S. envoy to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, has met with the rebel leadership several times in recent weeks to ensure they are prepared to take over control of depots containing those weapons.

"I cannot from here today size the MANPAD problem, because I don't think anybody knows," Nuland said. "This was not something that Gadhafi was in the business of publishing, and he's good at hiding stuff."

The State Department has already spent $3 million on contracts to help destroy weapons and mines inside parts of Libya that have been taken over by rebel forces.

Gadhafi had promised in 2003 to dismantle its nuclear program as part of an agreement that eventually led the U.S. to take Libya off the list of states that sponsor terrorism in 2006.

After the agreement, the U.S. sent millions in aid to the Gadhafi regime "focused on bolstering Libya's commitments to renouncing weapons of mass destruction," according to State Department records.

ABC News' Lee Ferran contributed to this report.

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