LONDON ø Preliminary inspections of Libya's nuclear weapons developments have shocked western intelligence services.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that the scale of Libya's nuclear weapons program far exceeded assessments by the CIA, which concluded that Tripoli
did not have the technical expertise to conduct a nuclear program.
The IAEA report determined that the regime of Moammar Khaddafy succeeded in
separating plutonium and enriching uranium. Furthermore, the report continued, Libya accumulated
a significant amount of technical knowledge regarding the key elements
required for the production of nuclear weapons assembly.
On Tuesday, Libyan ruler Moammar Khaddafy acknowledged that he
maintained a secret nuclear weapons program, Middle East Newsline reported.
The 10-page report by the agency asserted that Libya began its nuclear
program at least 25 years ago.
Diplomatic sources who read the report said the IAEA has concluded that
Libya was preparing to receive a uranium enrichment plant meant to produce
fuel for the assembly of several nuclear bombs a year. They said Libya had
purchased a complete facility, including gas centrifuges.
The IAEA, which inspected 18 sites, said Libya drafted plans to
accelerate its nuclear weapons program. The agency said Libya ordered 10,000
gas centrifuges through the international black market headed by Pakistani
government scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Khaddafy said his decision to
dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction program was based on
what he termed national security interests as well as the high price for
maintaining a WMD arsenal.
"Today, it becomes a problem to have a nuclear bomb," Khaddafy said in
an address to the Libyan People's National Congress in the coastal city of
Sirte. "At the time, it was maybe the fashion to have a nuclear bomb. Today,
you have no enemy. Who's the enemy?"
The report, prepared for the agency's 35-member board of
governors, said Tripoli procured a small set of gas centrifuges required for
the enrichment of uranium. In addition, Libya acquired large quantities of
high-test metals required to construct centrifuges.
The IAEA said Libya produced "very small quantities" of plutonium at the
Tajura Nuclear Research Center. In addition, Libya also enriched small
quantities of uranium.
The agency also determined that Libya began to conceal a nuclear program
as early as 1978. At that time, Tripoli accumulated what turned out to be
tons of uranium ore concentrate. At the time, Libya reported the import of
only 1,000 tons.
In 1985, Libya began to acquire uranium hexafluoride, a material
required for the enrichment of uranium, the IAEA report said. In 1997, the
Libyan government ordered 20 assembled centrifuges and components for an
In September 2000, Libya ordered 10,000 centrifuges based on the
so-called P2 centrifuge, the report said. Centrifuge components began to
arrive in December 2002 and a German shipment of parts was captured in
"Libya would have needed to do relatively little to assemble and start
the centrifuges," the Washington-based Institute for Science and
International Security said. "The priority now should be finding all the
major suppliers to Libya's turn-key centrifuge plant and associated
centrifuge manufacturing plant. In addition, authorities must ensure that
any centrifuge components and designs are secured against resale."