WASHINGTON - U.S. experts sent to Libya to recover weapons left over by the regime of fallen leader Moammar Gadhafi have found about 5,000 surface-to-air missiles, the State Department said Dec. 23.
The exact number is difficult to say, said spokesman Mark Toner, as there is no actual inventory and a number were destroyed in NATO air strikes this year.
"We support the Libyan government as it works on this ... to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate the militias. It's clearly a high priority for them," Toner said.
The State Department was still trying to evaluate how many missiles existed in the North African nation, which can pose a danger to civilian aircraft, Toner said.
But he refused to confirm rumors that the United States was seeking to buy back some of the weapons which might have been looted from open stockpiles in the chaos of the unrest which toppled Gadhafi earlier this year.
"I just would say that as we deal with the challenge of destroying (such missiles) MANPADS, we are looking at a variety of methods," he added.