The United States was stunned by the discovery in Libya of advanced centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium for nuclear weapons.
Officials said a team of U.S. and British specialists found that Libya had constructed
a centrifuge that was enriching uranium. Several other centrifuges were also
found as part of what they said was a complete infrastructure for the
production of nuclear weapons.
The team was also led to a Libyan medium-range missile program that
included the Scud C. The missiles, with a range of 500 kilometers, were said
to have been obtained from North Korea.
The discovery stunned Western officials and intelligence analysts who
had earlier determined that Libya's technological infrastructure was
insufficient for a nuclear weapons program. Officials did not say how much
uranium was enriched by Libya or which country assisted Tripoli. But one
official said Iraq was not a source of Libyan nuclear expertise.
"The Libyan effort sought to develop a nuclear fuel cycle in cooperation
with one or more countries," an official said. "There are many ways to
interpret the data we've acquired, but I would say that they were no more
than two years away from developing a nuclear bomb."
Over the last three months, Tripoli granted a British-U.S. team access
to Libyan WMD and missile programs as part of that country's efforts to end
sanctions by London and Washington. Officials said the regime of Col.
Moammar Khaddafy provided what they termed "significant information" on
Libya's nuclear and chemical weapons programs.
For years, Libya denied any WMD program, particularly regarding nuclear
weapons. But in a statement over the weekend, the Bush administration said
Libya has also acknowledged the development of biological weapons program as
well as medium-range ballistic missiles to serve as delivery systems for
Officials said Libya contacted Britain and the United States in March
2003 and asserted its willingness to discuss Tripoli's WMD programs. They
said Khaddafy ordered the relay of Libyan documents on his nation's WMD and
missile programs to London and Washington.
U.S. and British experts, including those from the CIA, gained access to
Libyan facilities and found uranium enrichment activity at more than 10
sites, officials said. They said the team, which visited Libya in October
and December, was also shown what was termed significant quantities of
The visit by the U.S.-British team clarified many elements of Libya's
WMD program, officials said. A recent CIA report that covered the period
from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2003 asserted that Libya continued to develop its
nuclear infrastructure. The report noted nuclear cooperation talks between
Libya and Russia regarding the Tajura nuclear research center and a
potential nuclear power reactor deal.
"Such civil-sector work could have presented Libya with opportunities to
pursue technologies also suitable for military purposes," the CIA report
said. "In addition, Libya participated in various technical exchanges
through which it could have tried to obtain dual-use equipment and
technology that could have enhanced its overall technical capabilities in
the nuclear area."
On Saturday, Libya pledged to dismantle all of its WMD programs and
declare nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Libya
also pledged to destroy ballistic missiles with a range of more than 300
kilometers and a payload of 500 kilograms.
Other Libyan pledges included complete adherence to the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty, and its signing of the Additional Protocol. Tripoli
was also said to have pledged to adhere to the Chemical Weapons Convention
and destroy all chemical weapons stockpile.
U.S. officials said Libya would also allow immediate IAEA inspections
and monitoring to verify Tripoli's pledges. They said this could pave the
way for the removal of British and U.S. sanctions on the Tripoli regime.
"Should Libya pursue internal reform, America will be ready to help its
people to build a more free and prosperous country," President George Bush
said on Friday. "Because Libya has a troubled history with America and
Britain, we will be vigilant in ensuring its government lives up to all its