Libyan inspections find evidence of collaboration with Egypt

Monday, March 29, 2004

The United States has found evidence that Libya traded nuclear and missile expertise with Egypt.

Inspections by a British-U.S. team of Libyan facilities in late 2003 and early 2004 have uncovered evidence that Libya was both the source for and recipient of nuclear and missile technology and expertise from Egypt.

Officials said the evidence confirmed suspicions over the last three years of a secret trade between Cairo and Tripoli in strategic weapons obtained from North Korea.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has also been seeking to determine whether Egypt received Pakistani nuclear weapons designs, including that for nuclear warheads, Middle East Newsline reported. A Chinese-origin nuclear warhead design sold by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan was found in Libya.

"The evidence of Egyptian involvement in Libya's missile and nuclear weapons program is highly damaging and most of the doubts we had previously have been resolved," an official said. "That doesn't mean, however, that there will be imminent repercussions."

[On Monday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily reported that the Bush administration has agreed to increase U.S. aid to Egypt by $2.3 billion. The newspaper said $300 million would be relayed in a direct grant and the rest in loan guarantees.]

The officials did not elaborate on the type of evidence found in Libya. But they said Egypt appeared to have been using Libya as a way-station for obtaining nuclear and missile technology and components from North Korea.

"We are still trying to understand the network, to see if other countries have received the [weapons-related] technology, the weapons designs," IAEA director-general Mohamed El Baradei, who did not cite Egypt, said during a visit to Libya on Feb. 23. "This is of course an important and urgent concern for us."

U.S. officials said they doubted whether the alleged Egyptian-Libyan missile and nuclear cooperation would be raised during a scheduled April 12 meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and President George Bush.

The officials said the Bush administration as well as its predecessors have been extremely cautious in discussing Egyptian weapons of mass destruction programs with Mubarak or his senior aides. Egypt has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in December 2003 announced the cancellation of a program to construct eight nuclear power reactors.

For years, Egypt obtained missile technology directly from Pyongyang, officials said. But in 2001 the United States blocked a shipment of 50 North Korean No-Dong missiles to Egypt. A year later, the House subcommittee on terrorism was told that Egypt received 24 No-Dong missile engines from North Korea.

Officials said Egypt -- which receives about $2 billion in annual U.S. civilian and military aid -- was angered by a series of inquiries in 2002 regarding its missile and nuclear ties with Libya. They said Egypt vociferously denied U.S. allegations, based on satellite photographs, that Cairo was conducting a secret missile and WMD trade with Libya.

Since 2001, officials said, the United States has been monitoring evidence that Egypt has tried to develop an intermediate-range missile. One option said to have been sought by Egypt was the development of a liquid-fueled missile known as the Vector, meant to have a range of up to 1,200 kilometers.

The U.S.-British inspections of Libyan facilities pointed to Egyptian cooperation with Tripoli in the area of medium-range missiles. Officials said the team found evidence of Egyptian assistance to a Libyan program to develop a missile of more than 1,000 kilometers based on the No-Dong.

One piece of evidence cited was the discovery in Libyan facilities of fuel tanks meant for medium-range and intermediate-range missiles. Officials said the British-U.S. team did not find entire missiles.

"We're just scratching the surface," the U.S. official said. "There were places that we were not allowed to visit and there were places that we didn't ask to go. This will be a process that will take a long time."

The United States reported that Libya, with assistance of North Korea, succeeded in developing and producing an extended-range Scud C missile that could travel 800 kilometers. Those missiles were transferred to the United States, but officials said Washington has evidence that the Scud C technology had been relayed to Egypt.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives