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Tony Blair: Engaging with Gaddafi stopped IS getting chemical weapons

Former PM says bringing Libya in may have prevented the Islamic State from getting hold of weapons.

Mr Blair speaking to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee
Mr Blair speaking to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

Tony Blair's decision to bring Colonel Gaddafi and Libya "in from the cold" may have prevented chemical weapons falling into the hands of the so-called Islamic State terror group, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Blair met former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in his desert tent in 2004, as the north African country began its return to the international community after years of isolation for supporting terrorism.

As part of the process, Gaddafi renounced weapons of mass destruction, bringing to a halt programmes to develop nuclear and chemical arms.

File photo dated 29/05/07 of Tony Blair (left) and Muammar Gaddafi shaking hands at Gaddafi's desert base near Sirte, Libya.
File photo dated 29/05/07 of Tony Blair (left) and Muammar Gaddafi shaking hands at Gaddafi's desert base near Sirte, Libya.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Blair said he believed his decision to engage with Libya remained "important" in the present day, after IS - also known as Isil and Isis - established a presence in the country in the chaotic circumstances which followed Gaddafi's removal and death in the 2011 revolution.

Otherwise, we would have had a situation where Libya was continuing to sponsor terrorism, was continuing to develop chemical and nuclear weapons and would have remained isolated in the international community. I think it is important that we brought them in from the cold, as it were, and important also in today's context because I think - particularly if we had still had the residue of that chemical weapons programme in Libya today, given the state of Libya today and given the presence of Isis there - it would have constituted a real risk, even today.
Tony Blair

Mr Blair told the committee that the Gaddafi regime had:

    • 3,500 chemical aerial bombs
    • 1300 tons of chemical weapon precursors
    • 23 tons of mustard gas

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