TRIPOLI, March 17 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Armed forces in eastern Libya say they have found about two and a half tonnes of uranium ore that were reported missing by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Ten drums containing the ore were found near the border with Chad, said the head of the forces’ media unit.
The IAEA said it was “actively working to verify” media reports.
The agency sounded the alarm after a visit by its inspectors earlier this week to the undisclosed site.
The area was not in government-controlled territory.
Uranium is a naturally-occurring element that can have nuclear-related uses once it has been refined, or enriched.
The uranium which went missing could not be made into a nuclear weapon in its current state, but could be used as the raw material for a nuclear weapons programme, experts said.
In December 2003, under then-military ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi, Libya publicly renounced nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
But since Col Gaddafi was deposed in 2011, the country has been divided into competing political and military factions.
It is now split between an interim, internationally recognised government in the capital, Tripoli, and another one in the east.
Neither is in control of the south, where the uranium was taken from.
Thursday’s statement on finding the drums came from the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), the military force that backs the unrecognised eastern Libyan administration.
The LNA said the containers of uranium had been found about five kilometres from where they had been stored in southern Libya.
The IAEA says the site had been difficult to reach in recent times.
Inspectors had wanted to visit the location last year, but the trip had to be postponed because of fighting between rival Libyan militias. — NNN-AGENCIES