Engaging with Gaddafi stopped IS getting chemical weapons, Tony Blair says


The decision to bring Libya "in from the cold" may have prevented a real risk of chemical weapons falling into the hands of the Islamic State terror group, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested.

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.

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, Isis or Daesh - 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," said the former PM.

"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."