- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

From combined dispatches

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libya moved quickly yesterday to prove its commitment to the world, sending a delegation to the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, Austria, to draw up plans to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, met a senior Libyan official for a hastily arranged meeting in Vienna.

“Dr. ElBaradei met with Libya’s secretary of the National Board of Scientific Research to discuss the Libyan government’s desire to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction program,” IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said.

Libya said on Friday it was ready to accept strict IAEA nuclear safeguards and to work with teams of international specialists to destroy other deadly weapons, its ability to make them and to give up missiles capable of delivering them.

Libya’s move came ahead of today’s anniversary of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland that killed 270 persons. British relatives of the victims welcomed the news that dialogue had brought disarmament, Tripoli’s second dramatic step this year to rejoin the international community.

In Washington, U.S. officials offered further details of the secret negotiations that led to Libya’s announcement Friday and praise from President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Senior intelligence officials, including one on the inspection team that went to Libya, briefed reporters yesterday on the chain of events that led to the announcement. They spoke on condition they not be identified.

Most significant among the discoveries was that Libya had built a working centrifuge for uranium enrichment. To make weapons-grade uranium, a raw form of the substance can be passed through a series of centrifuges that slowly create a product capable of nuclear fission.

The intelligence officials refused to say how Libya obtained centrifuge technology. Both Iran and North Korea are thought to have the technology, as are a number of companies and U.S. allies.

So far, the United States has learned that Libya had:

• Tens of tons of mustard agent, a World War I-era chemical weapon, produced about 10 years ago.

• Aircraft bombs capable of dispersing the mustard agent in combat.

• A supply of Scud-C ballistic missiles made in North Korea. The weapons can hit targets 500 miles away.

Much of this information reinforced the CIA’s assumptions, intelligence officials said, although some expressed surprise at how far the Libyans’ nuclear program had advanced.

Early in the year, before contacts began, Libyan officials approached the British government to open discussions. Washington was later included in negotiations that took place at an undisclosed location in Europe.

After some initial visits to Tripoli, a team of CIA and British intelligence personnel went to Libya in October to inspect weapons sites. The team included technical specialists on weapons programs.

At some point, the CIA presented the Libyans with its intelligence about the programs. The Libyans were surprised at how much the agency knew, the officials said, then provided much more information.

The second inspection visit, in December, was more fruitful, the officials said.

During the visits, the team went to 10 sites related to Libya’s nuclear effort, chemical stockpile and missile program.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi also agreed to get rid of missiles with ranges longer than 186 miles, which would include the North Korean Scud-Cs but not Scud-Bs, which have the 186-mile range.

The United States has a 17-year embargo in place against Libya and continues to list Libya among nations that sponsor terrorism. Britain’s foreign secretary indicated that Washington may lift the embargo.

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