- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

VIENNA, Austria — The United States and the U.N. atomic agency agreed yesterday to work together in examining, cataloging and scrapping Libya’s nuclear-weapons program, ending weeks of squabbling over who has the authority to do so.

The deal was reached by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, senior British arms expert William Ehrman and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a critic of the IAEA policy on Libya and Iran.

Following the meeting at the offices of the U.S. mission to the IAEA, Mr. ElBaradei said the agreement gave his agency the role of establishing the scope and content of Libya’s nuclear program. Once IAEA verification was complete, U.S. and British experts would remove suspect materials from the North African country, he said.

Diplomats familiar with the agency said the IAEA also was claiming the right to verify that all contentious equipment and material had been removed or rendered unusable.

Tensions over who does what in Libya had spilled over into heated public discussion in recent weeks, with the IAEA insisting it had the mandate to take the lead on nuclear issues.

Bush administration officials had said U.S. and British experts should have the leading role in identifying and destroying Tripoli’s nuclear-weapons program because U.S.-British talks with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi led to his decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction.

Differing characterizations of the state of Libya’s program had fueled the dispute: The IAEA has said Libya is nowhere near producing a weapon, while Washington and London contended it was further along than the agency realizes.

But both sides were eager yesterday to put the disputes behind them.

“It was a very productive meeting. I think we’re on the same page with the IAEA on this very important project,” Mr. Bolton said after the session at the U.S. mission in Vienna.

Mr. ElBaradei called the meeting “very constructive,” adding: “I think it went very well.

“We have agreement on what needs to be done,” he said. “Clearly, the agency’s role is very clear — that we need to do the verification. A good part of the program needs to be eliminated, it needs to be moved out, and we clearly need the British and American support with logistics.”

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