Libya received international praise on Friday for announcing that it was no longer interested in producing banned nuclear weapons, and told the UN nuclear watchdog that it was ready to sign up to allow weapons inspectors into the country.
“We are turning our swords into ploughshares and this step should be appreciated and followed by all other countries,” Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanim said on Friday, adding that economic progress was more important than arms.
However, Britain, which played a key role in talks that persuaded Tripoli to abandon its arms ambitions, said the example set by the removal of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might have prompted the move.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon suggested the fate of the Iraqi leader, overthrown by a US-led invasion of Iraq in April, might have been different had Baghdad been more forthcoming over arms.
“We showed after Saddam Hussein failed to cooperate with the United Nations that we meant business and Libya, and I hope other countries, will draw that lesson,” he told a UK satellite news channel.
The United States and Britain, which was pivotal in isolating Libya after the Lockerbie bombing 15 years ago, accused Saddam of developing banned arms and invaded in March. None has been found.
US intelligence officials said Qadhafi seemed the driving force behind Libya’s decision and his motivation may have ranged from concerns about the Iraq war and a desire to end isolation, to concerns about domestic threats to his own rule.