Libya giving up WMD programs, Bush says

By RICHARD TOMKINS, UPI White House Correspondent   |   Dec. 19, 2003 at 7:31 PM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi is giving up his regime's stocks of chemical weapons, components for building nuclear weapons and other materials and programs connected with weapons of mass destruction, President George W. Bush confirmed Friday.

Bush, speaking in a rare appearance in the White House pressroom, said Gadhafi also agreed to immediate and unconditional inspections by international organizations to render an accounting of materials and oversee their elimination.

"Libya should carry out the commitments announced today," Bush said. "Libya should also fully engage in the war against terrorism.

"As the Libyan government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, its good faith will be returned. Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations, and over time, achieve far better relations with the United States."

The Libyan decision was a stunning flip-flop by a country and leader long associated with international terrorism, including the December 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people and led to international sanctions.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters Friday Libya approached the United States through Britain last March.

On two occasions teams of U.S. and British intelligence officials, experts in various aspects of weapons of mass destruction, traveled to Libya and were taken to various sites by Libyan officials.

"The Libyans were quite open," the official said.

The experts were shown stocks of mustard gas, centrifuge equipment for processing weapons-grade uranium, precursor chemical agents and documents on WMD programs.

The experts were also shown long-range Scud missiles, warheads for carrying chemical weapons and equipment capable for producing biological weapons.

"My understanding is that they had a much further advanced (nuclear) program than had been thought," the administration official said.

Quantities of weapons and weapons components were not revealed Friday.

Neither the president nor the official gave a definitive reason as to why the Libyans had turned over on the weapons issue.

Both, however, said the success was the work of diplomacy, intelligence and a very clear message.

"Those weapons do not bring influence or prestige," Bush said. "They bring isolation and otherwise unwelcome consequences."

Bush pointed to U.S. and British non-proliferation policies and the coalition formed to combat terrorist and their state sponsors.

"In word and in action, we have clarified the choices left to potential adversaries," he said.

Administration officials said the next step is for international inspectors to enter Libya and begin their work.

Gadhafi rose to power in a coup in 1969, nationalizing the country's oil industry. It later gave support to a number of terrorist groups and leaders.

Bush said Friday if the Libyan attempted internal political reform, the American people would be there to help them.

Bush said his administration would meanwhile continue using multilateral partnerships and international agencies to try to persuade North Korea and Iran to give up their nuclear weapons programs.

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