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IAEA Says Libyan Nuclear Program in Early Stages

BY Admin  December 29, 2003 at 12:45 PM EDT

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations’ IAEA said, ”What we have seen is a program at a very initial state.”

“I am happy that we came in at that stage.”

ElBaradei also praised Libya for its willingness to work with inspectors.

“Libya has shown a good deal of cooperation, a good deal of openness,” he said.

Libya’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, invited ElBaradei and his team to inspect the North African nation’s nuclear program after Libyan officials announced this month they were abandoning plans to obtain nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Praising Libya’s decision to make all aspects of its nuclear program open to U.N. review, ElBaradei said the nation could be rewarded. He suggested that other nations in a nuclear standoff should look to Libya as an example.

“If a country wants to show transparency and active cooperation, that can open the doors of lots of avenues for a complete change of face. … It is a lesson for North Korea to observe,” ElBaradei said, referring to the reclusive Asian nation’s decision to expel nuclear inspectors earlier this year.

Libya, a nation that the United States has long accused of sponsoring terrorism, has agreed to sign an additional protocol to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty allowing for inspections on short notice.

Inspectors were hoping that the investigation of Libya’s nuclear program might help them ascertain who helped Iran obtain its enrichment technology.

Obtaining weapons-grade material is the hardest part for countries trying to build an atomic weapon, Reuters reported. Iran and Libya both said they obtained centrifuges on the black market.

Iran has also agreed to IAEA inspections, but Iranian officials say their nuclear program is peaceful. Though the IAEA does not have evidence that Tehran was producing weapons, part of the program was kept secretive for years, leading many nations to suspect Iran’s program.

Gadhafi said he hoped Israel, the only nation in the Middle East thought to possess nuclear arms, might feel pressure to disarm. Israel, however, has not confirmed or denied a weapons program, the Associated Press reported.

Gadhafi’s decision to dismantle Libya’s nuclear program comes after other moves intended to end his country’s isolation from the international community.

The United States imposed sanctions against Libya in 1986, saying it supported terrorist groups. Though the United States continues embargoes against the nation, Gadhafi’s latest decision may improve relations.

After Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, the United Nations removed restrictions against the nation.

Libya also agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims’ families.