On Dec. 19, 2003, Libyan officials admitted to the international community that
they had developed over several decades a secret nuclear weapons program but that
they had committed, after negotiations with British and U.S. leaders, to dismantling
the program and allowing international inspectors to verify the elimination of
has, a Libyan foreign ministry statement said, "decided on its free will to ...
completely eliminate the internationally banned weapons of mass destruction."
leader Moammar Gadhafi said the program had been developed to protect his country
from an Israeli nuclear attack. Israel has never officially admitted to having
a nuclear program, but is widely suspected of possessing scores of nuclear weapons.
announcing then renouncing its program, Libya admitted to secretly buying uranium
on the black market and to purchasing the equipment and materials needed to build
a nuclear weapon. Much of the material, according to later U.N. International
Atomic Energy Agency investigations, was purchased through the illegal network
of rogue Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan.
IAEA investigations also found that
while Libya did not have a complete weapon, the country was in the early stages
of building one and may have been able to do so within three to seven years. Inspectors
discovered secret nuclear facilities in and around the capital city of Tripoli,
according to the Nuclear Technology Institute.
"What we have seen is a program
at a very initial state," IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said following inspections.
"I am happy that we came in at that stage."
Gadhafi's decision to abandon
efforts to develop a nuclear weapon came after nine months of private negotiations
with British and U.S. diplomats. Analysts agree that Gadhafi's motivation may
have been a response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a country thought to have possessed
weapons of mass destruction by American officials. Gadhafi may have feared a similar
Because of its links to terrorist activities and suspicions that Libya
had supported the 1988 bombing of an American airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland,
the country had also faced economic sanctions from the United Nations and a U.S.
embargo. With his announcement in December 2003, Gadhafi hoped to put an end to
"With today's announcement by its leader, Libya has begun
the process of rejoining the community of nations," U.S. President George W. Bush
Despite its ratification in 1975 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty, which committed its nuclear power members to disarmament and its non-nuclear
members to refraining from seeking weapons, Libya had actively tried to buy nuclear
materials from other countries.
Libya also signed the Treaty of Pelindaba,
an agreement to ensure Africa as a weapons free zone, according to the Nuclear
Threat Initiative (NTI), a non-profit organization that funds non-proliferation
Also according to NTI, Libya violated several of international
agreements, seeking technology, designs and scientific knowledge from China, Pakistan,
the Soviet Union, Belgium and Ukraine. Following IAEA inspections, the international
organization found that Libya's program was far more advanced than it had admitted.
Within its nuclear infrastructure was a nuclear reactor received from the Soviet
"Starting in the early 1980s and continuing until the end of 2003,
Libya imported nuclear material and conducted a wide variety of nuclear activities
which it had failed to report to the agency as required under its Safeguards Agreement,"
the IAEA said.
In January 2004, British and American teams dismantled Libya's
nuclear facilities under the observance of the IAEA, according to NTI. Two months
later Libya signed an additional protocol to the NPT, allowing the IAEA to help
demilitarize the country's nuclear program and use it for civilian purposes.
country also is a signed member of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.