A Yakhont missile.
A Yakhont missile. Photo by Haaretz Archive
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U.S. experts sent to Libya to recover weapons left over by fallen leader Muammar Gadhafi found 5,000 surface-to-air missiles, the U.S. State Department reportedly said Friday.

According to a report by AFP, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said the exact number is difficult to say, for there was no actual inventory and a number were destroyed by NATO air strikes this year.

Toner reportedly said the U.S. supports the current Libyan government's efforts to restore order in the north African nation. "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," he reportedly said.

AFP added that, according to Toner, the U.S. State Department was still in the process of evaluating how many missiles existed in Libya, which could pose a danger to civilian aircraft. It added that Toner refused to confirm rumors that the U.S. was seeking to buy back some of the weapons that may have been looted from open stockpiles during the chaos of the Arab Spring fighting.

On Thursday, the United Nations Security Council was reassured that none of Libya's nuclear materials had gone missing and there appeared no risk of arms proliferation in the country.

The head of the UN mission in Libya, Ian Martin, reported to the 15 nation council through a teleconference that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had on December 9 inspected the Tajoura Nuclear Facility in Tripoli and uranium concentrate storage in Sabha.
The IAEA found that "none of the previously recorded nuclear materials in either facility had gone missing," Martin said.

Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Libya to meet the country's interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib and Defense Minister Osama Al-Juwali, as the weak interim government is struggling to assert control two months after Gadhafi's death.

The visit followed a decision by the UN Security Council to lift sanctions on Libya's central bank and a subsidiary, clearing the way for tens of billions of dollars they hold overseas to be unfrozen to ease an acute cash crisis.