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ElBaradei: Libya in Early Nuclear Stages

December 29, 2003

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ The U.N. nuclear chief said Monday that his visits to four once-secret nuclear sites proved that Libya had been in the early stages of a weapons program before it dismantled its efforts.

Mohammed ElBaradei said the equipment and technology had come from a number of countries.

``What we have seen is a program in the very initial stages of development,″ ElBaradei told reporters. ``We haven’t seen any industrial-scale facility to produce highly enriched uranium; we haven’t seen any enriched uranium″ _ the material needed for developing nuclear weapons.

ElBaradei and his team of experts visited four previously unmentioned nuclear sites in and around Tripoli on Sunday, and he said all the equipment had been dismantled and boxed up.

The inspections follow leader Moammar Gadhafi’s decision to abandon his country’s attempts to produce weapons of mass destruction.

Libya is one of just 14 countries that has neither signed nor ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention prohibiting the production, storage and use of chemical weapons.

ElBaradei said the origins of Libya’s technology would easily be identified ``as they were of a familiar design.″

He suggested a ``sophisticated network″ was behind the technology, including ``a number of different people in a number of different places, a network which you can call a cartel but not necessarily with the knowledge of a particular country or countries.″

``It has been across many countries in the world,″ he said.

ElBaradei had said earlier that Libya received its weapons equipment ``through the black market and middle people.″

On Monday, he declined to reveal the number or names of Libyan scientists or where they received training, but said they were ``well competent scientists.″

``That is good for Libya ... to work on the peaceful development in nuclear program for civilian purposes,″ he said.

The U.N. official, who was to leave Libya later Monday, met with Matouq Mohammed Matouq, a Libyan deputy prime minister and head of the country’s nuclear program, to develop a plan for future inspections.

The visit by the U.N. team is part of an international effort to ensure the North African state has no weapons of mass destruction. Six inspectors will be in Libya until Thursday.

Libya, long on the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism, has portrayed its move as a strategic step, insisting it never produced any weapons of mass destruction.

It has promised full transparency and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and said it would sign a protocol allowing wide-ranging inspections on short notice.

Gadhafi said he hoped Libya’s action would pressure Israel to disarm. Israel, the only Mideast nation believed to possess nuclear arms, refuses to confirm or deny a weapons program.

According to ElBaradei’s spokesman, Mark Gwozdecky, the sites visited Sunday were new facilities that ``have never been mentioned in the media before.″

As a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Libya is required to declare all sensitive nuclear installations to the United Nations.

Some of the inspectors on Sunday met with Libyan officials on ``technical matters concerning the history of (Libya’s) entire program″ related to weapons of mass destruction, the U.N. spokesman said. ElBaradei did not take part in this meeting, he said, providing no further details.

Gadhafi’s pledge to scrap its weapons programs is the latest in a series of moves to end his country’s international isolation and shed its image as a rogue nation. It followed eight months of covert negotiations and inspections by British and U.S. intelligence officials.

The United Nations lifted sanctions against Libya after it accepted responsibility in September for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims’ families.

The United States imposed sanctions against Libya in 1986, claiming it supported terrorist groups. It continues its embargoes but after Gadhafi’s nuclear promise hinted at improved economic relations.

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