August 17th, 2007 13:43 EST
Deadly Chemical Weapons in Albania
Washington – Five years ago, Albanian defense officials discovered a cache of lethal chemical weapons left over from the Cold War era. Turning to the United States for technical and financial assistance, the Albanian government succeeded in completing the destruction of the 16-ton chemical weapons stockpile in July.
On September 1, in Tirana, Albanian officials and a U.S. delegation from Washington will commemorate Albania becoming the first country to complete destruction of its chemical weapons.
Deputy Albanian Defense Minister Petrit Karabina said elimination of these lethal weapons was made by possible by U.S. support and cooperation. This project underscores two important initiatives – eradicating weapons of mass destruction generally, and keeping such weapons out of the hands of terrorists, he said.
Funding for the weapons destruction came from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program originally created under legislation sponsored by 1991 by Senator Richard Lugar and Senator Sam Nunn to provide funding and expertise to help the former Soviet Union safeguard and dismantle enormous stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, related materials and delivery systems. In 2003, Congress approved an expansion of the legislation, which allowed the funding to be used outside of the former Soviet Union.
Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeded in getting the United States to commit the funds for the first time to a country outside the former Soviet Union.
"The work on the destruction of chemical weapons in our country began after the American Congress approved the funds for this project. In December 2002, a quantity of 16 tons of chemical weapons was discovered," Karabina said.
Lugar said the cache of chemical weapons was imported into Albania during the 1980s by a previous government. "Luckily, the [current] government in Tirana recognized the risk and promptly sought out assistance from the United States."
Lugar visited the weapons site in August 2004 to discuss creating a secure storage facility for the chemical weapons and to help arrange for the stockpile's destruction.
"The president authorized a Nunn-Lugar weapons destruction project for Albania, and American and Albanian officials worked out a plan for the complicated and dangerous operation," Lugar said.
The destruction of the stockpile began on 2006 in a specially designed facility under U.S. Defense Department supervision and was completed in 2007, he said.
"The world is safer and a significant contribution has been made to regional and international security," Lugar said.
The full text of a press release from Lugar on the destruction of the stockpile is available on the senator’s Web site.
For more information on U.S. programs and policies, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)