- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A U.S. plane carrying 55,000 pounds of equipment from Libya’s nuclear-weapons and missile programs landed yesterday at an airport near Knoxville, Tenn., a delivery that the White House said proves the value of taking pre-emptive action against Iraq.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who is trying to break out of diplomatic isolation and wants the United States to lift economic sanctions against his North African nation, promised Dec. 19 to end development of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction.

“They recognize that our word is something that is credible, that we mean what we say,” Press Secretary Scott McClellan said of nations such as Libya and Iran, which have moved to open their weapons programs to inspectors since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein.

“And they are now taking steps to move away from their past, their past that included WMD programs, that included support for terrorism. They’re recognizing that if they move away from that, and take the steps that we’ve agreed to, then they can realize far better relations in this world. And I think that’s the message that other countries should heed, as well,” Mr. McClellan said.

The equipment that arrived yesterday, which included stock to enrich uranium, centrifuge parts and guidance sets for long-range missiles, will be examined at the nearby Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons plant. The “most sensitive documentation” connected with Libya’s nuclear program arrived by plane last week at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport, he said.

“While these shipments are only the beginning of the elimination of Libya’s weapons, these shipments, as well as the close cooperation on the ground in Libya, reflect real progress in Libya meeting its commitments. Colonel Gadhafi made a courageous decision to give up his weapons, and through this transparent process, the world can see that Colonel Gadhafi is keeping his commitment,” Mr. McClellan said.

Although Col. Gadhafi has been isolated from the United States for more than 30 years, the reclusive leader began to make overtures late last year to the Bush administration, which has demanded that several countries dismantle their nuclear programs. The leader went one step further: Libya has begun to destroy its chemical munitions, the Bush spokesman said.

Col. Gadhafi has also renounced his support for terrorist organizations and invited U.S., British and U.N. experts to dismantle his previously secret programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

But the United States has not yet declared an end to economic sanctions put in place 18 years ago, although some congressional lawmakers who recently traveled to Libya called for their removal. Seven members of Congress met Monday in Tripoli with Col. Gadhafi for 90 minutes after landing in the first U.S. military aircraft to touch down in that nation since 1969.

Over the last year, Col. Gadhafi has made a startling turnaround. He admitted his country’s involvement in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims’ families.

The delegation indicated that the sanctions could be removed as soon as Col. Gadhafi made good on his pledges. But the White House gave no indication it was ready to ease the U.S. economic squeeze on Libya, nor did the State Department say Libya’s designation as a supporter of terrorism would be canceled.

“As the Libyan government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, its good faith will be returned, and Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations,” Mr. McClellan said.

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