'American pressure'

 

Guma El-Gamaty, a researcher on Libyan affairs, told Al Jazeera: "It is a significant reward for Gaddafi and a sign of how far relations between America and Libya have come.

 

"Gaddafi's regime has become strong ally of America in its 'war on terror' ... supplying information about Islamic groups around the world that may prove a threat to the US."

 

He said: "This will send a diplomatic signal to other more crucial countries, like Iran and North Korea, that if they follow Libya's example and completely capitulate and give up to American pressure and toe the American line ... they will be rewarded."

 

Libya had long been suspected by some governments in the west of attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.

But in 2003 Muammar Gaddafi, the country's long-term leader, renounced all attempts to develop a non-conventional arsenal, clearing the way for  the restoration of diplomatic relations with the US in May last year.

Gaddafi did, however, maintain his desire to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Technical assistance

The deal to be signed shortly with the US would include building a nuclear power plant, helping develop water desalination capacity, joint research and technical projects and training Libyan technicians in the US.

"The General People's Committee authorised on Sunday the General People's Committee for Liaison and International Cooperation to sign the agreement related to Libyan-American cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Jana said.

On March 3, Gaddafi renewed a recent complaint that Western countries had failed to properly compensate Libya for scrapping its nuclear arms programme and as a result countries like Iran and North Korea would not follow his lead.

Fears over finite oil and gas supplies and climate change have meant nuclear power is seen increasingly as a way of producing energy and cutting emissions of carbon dioxide.

Libya has proven oil reserves of 39 billion barrels, enough for 60 years at current production rates.

 

Its largely unexploited gas reserves are estimated at 53 trillion cubic feet.