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IAEA: Libya began enriching uranium in the 1980s

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Monday, December 29, 2003< /FONT>

LONDON The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to investigate the sources of Libya's weapons of mass destruction programs and whether the North African state transferred components and expertise to other countries.

The Vienna-based agency intends to examine whether Iran and Pakistan were suppliers to Libya's nuclear weapons program. Pakistan has launched an investigation into the matter.

Another question was whether Libya transferred components, fuel or nuclear weapons expertise to other countries. The United States has suspected that Libya relayed unspecified missile and WMD components to Egypt, Middle East Newsline reported.

"There has been, of course, a good deal of importation from abroad of equipment and material," IAEA director-general Mohammed El Baradei said. "We do not know yet whether there was any linkage with other nations."

Over the weekend, Libya acknowledged pursuing a secret nuclear program as well as development of chemical weapons and medium-range missiles. El Baradei provided new information on Libya's nuclear weapons program, saying Tripoli launched efforts to enrich uranium in the 1980s.

The IAEA chief said the program started by using centrifuges to produce enriched uranium. He said the program was intensified in the 1990s and included the import of centrifuges, uranium and conversion facilities.

The IAEA plans to conduct the first inspection of Libya next week. Officials said El Baradei has prepared to fly to Tripoli with senior inspectors to visit a series of sites.

"I'll be going to Libya some time next week with a team of senior experts," El Baradei said. "Inspections will follow, as early as next week."

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