Libya to scrap weapons of mass destruction

Libya has announced it is to eliminate all its weapons of mass destruction.

    Qadhafi agreed after nine months of secret dealings with Washington and London

    The North African country's foreign ministry said in a statement Libya "had decided on its free will to... completely eliminate the internationally banned weapons of mass destruction." 

    The statement said the agreement was reached after meetings with "experts" from Britain and the United States. No details were immediately available on the nature of these meetings, where they took place and when. 

    The text, of which an excerpt was obtained by Reuters, said
    the decision was in line with Libya's pledge to make the Middle East and Africa a nuclear-free area. 

    It said Libya had decided to keep only missiles "of the range and specification agreed under (requirements of) the MTCR" (Missile Technology Control Regime).

    'Historic' decision

    Libya accepted responsibility for
    the bombing of a Pan Am airliner

    "This decision by (Libyan leader)Colonel Qaddafi is an historic one and a courageous one and I applaud it. It will make the region and the world more secure," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who first announced the deal in a television address.

    "Today's announcement shows that we can fight this menace through more than purely military means; that we can defeat it peacefully, if countries are prepared, in good faith, to work with the international community to dismantle such weapons," Blair said.

    In a surprise announcement to the White House press corps, US president Geroge Bush said Colonel Muammar Qadhafi had agreed, after nine months of secret dealings with Washington and London, to destroy all of his weapons of mass destruction. 

    "With today's announcement by its leader, Libya has begun the process of rejoining the community of nations," said Bush. 

    "And Colonel Qadhafi knows the way forward," he said. "Libya
    should carry out the commitments announced today. Libya should also fully engage in the war against terror." 

    Troubled history

    Bush made clear, however, that he and Blair were not yet
    prepared to take the Libyan leader entirely at his word. 

    "With today's announcement by its leader, Libya has begun the process of rejoining the community of nations"

    George Bush, US president

    "Libya has a troubled history, but America and Britain will be
    vigilant," he said. "Libya can regain a secure and respected place among nations and over time can achieve far better relations with the United States...Libya should also fully engage in the war against terror." 

    Qadhafi has "agreed immediately and unconditionally to allow
    inspectors from international organizations to enter Libya," said Bush. "These inspectors will render an accounting of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. 

    "Colonel Qadhafi's commitment, once it is fulfilled, will make
    our country more safe and the world more peaceful."

    Travel ban

    Washington now bans most economic activity and travel by
    US citizens to Libya. It said last month it would renew the
    travel ban for a year but review it every three months. 

    Libya escaped from 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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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