Libya aims to rejoin international fold

Libya's surprise decision to scrap its WMD programme was taken to allow the country to focus on development and normalise ties with the US and Britain, its foreign minister has said.

    Al-Qadhafi hopes decision will usher in a purple patch for Libya

    Muhammad Abd al-Rahman Shalgam told Aljazeera on Saturday that Libya wanted to solve all problems and concentrate on development of the country.

    "This programme does not benefit our people or country," Shalgam said.

    Tripoli's move to drop its weapons of mass destruction programme and allow unconditional inspections drew praise from Washington and London.

    It was the second dramatic step this year by the Libyan leader in an ongoing bid to rejoin the international community.

    "We want to have ties with America and Britain because this is in the interests of our people," Shalgam added.

    He said Libya had been talking to the Americans, adding: "We want to defend our people's interests. What have Arabs done for Iraq or Palestine?"

    "We want to have ties with America and Britain because this is in the interest of our people. What have Arabs done for Iraq or Palestine?"

    Muhammad Abd al-Rahman 

    Shalgam, Libyan foreign minister

    Al-Qadhafi's son Saif al-Islam also said Libya's decision should pave the way to better relations with the United States and other major powers.

    "It's a critical deal for Libya, because first of all we will get access to defensive weapons and no sanctions on Libyan arms imports anymore. 

    "We will get access to the know-how and technology in sectors which were banned...and (which) Libyans were prohibited to study," he told CNN.

    Sanctions

    Washington bans most economic activity and bars citizens from travelling to Libya on US passports without government
    permission. 

    Libya escaped broader UN-imposed international sanctions earlier this year after accepting responsibility for the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 and paying out billions to the families of victims. 

    It is the 15th anniversary of the bombing on Sunday. 

    Washington left its sanctions in place, citing suspicions Tripoli was seeking biological and chemical weapons. 

    Uranium devices found

    US and British officials visiting weapons production sites in Libya in recent months found uranium-enrichment devices and bombs for delivering chemical weapons.

    The Security Council voted to lift
    sanctions against Libya

    The visits came after Libyan officials contacted US and British officials in March, initiating nine months of secret talks that culminated on Friday with Libya's pledge to renounce weapons of mass destruction, US sources said. 

    US and British officials saw chemical weapons and signs of a relatively advanced nuclear programme on more than 10 site visits in October and December, according to a senior White House official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

    A CIA report to Congress released in November said that Libya had made its greatest strides with chemical weapons but had made little progress on its longstanding goal of acquiring or developing a nuclear weapon.

    The site visits, however, contradicted the latter assessment.

    Nuclear progress

    "On the nuclear side, my understanding is that they did have a much further advanced programme, including centrifuges," devices used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, the official said.

    Building a centrifuge "is the long pole in the tent. Once you can do that, you can build a bomb," another administration official said, also speaking privately.

    "They told us that they had this programme that was ultimately intended to produce a bomb." 

    Libya was trying to put together a team of foreign experts to build a nuclear weapon, the second official said, declining to say which countries where being courted. 

    Libyan officials also showed their visitors "a significant quantity" of mustard gas and aerial bombs that could be filled with mustard gas, as well as a dual-use capacity to produce mustard gas and nerve agents.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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