Tuesday, December 23, 2003

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has urged rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran and Syria in a television interview to follow his lead and allow international inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

“In my opinion, they should follow the steps or take the example of Libya, so that they prevent any tragedy from being inflicted on their peoples,” Col. Gadhafi told CNN in an interview, excerpts of which were broadcast Monday and yesterday.

The Libyan leader said such openness would put renewed pressure on Israel to reveal its nuclear capabilities. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East believed to possess nuclear arms.

“This would tighten the noose around the Israelis so that they would expose their programs and their weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Libya imported centrifuges for uranium enrichment and admitted that it was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, but has stopped short of an enrichment program.

In the interview, Col. Gadhafi invited the world to come to Libya to verify that Tripoli was not concealing banned weapons, just days after promising that the country was abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

“Come and see. … We don’t want to hide anything,” the Libyan leader said.

Libya confirmed yesterday that spot checks by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency of its suspected nuclear sites could begin as soon as next week.

Col. Gadhafi’s oil-rich nation, long on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, said last week that it was abandoning efforts to build an atomic bomb and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It now wants trading benefits, including an end to U.S. sanctions.

“We have no intention to make these weapons, these WMD. But there are many rumors, many accusations, [much] propaganda against Libya,” Col. Gadhafi said in English.

For much of his rule, Libya has been under U.S. or U.N. sanctions, accused of sponsoring or carrying out terrorist acts ranging from bombing a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988 to training of foreign guerrillas.

The State Department said Washington would look at dropping the sanctions “as Libya’s policy changes, Libya’s behavior changes, Libya’s circumstances change,” spokesman Richard Boucher said at a news briefing.

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