WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- The Libyan government's pursuit of nuclear weapons has hastened since the United Nations suspended sanctions against that country in 1999, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton said this weekend.
"Our evidence is very convincing that since the Security Council suspended sanctions because of Pan Am 103, that the government of Libya has substantially increased its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction," Bolton said in an interview with Radio Sawa, a U.S.-funded AM radio station whose broadcasts cover most of the Arab world, including Iraq. Bolton would not share specific evidence, but he did say, "There is no question but since the suspension of the U.N. sanctions, that Libya's procurement activities and a lot of its activities in the nuclear program have been increased."
Bolton's statement could put a chill on U.S.-Libya negotiations to lift the U.N. sanctions imposed on Tripoli for its role in blowing up Pan Am 103 Boeing 747 aircraft in 1988. The Libyan government has reportedly offered families of the victims of the attack cash settlements and has agreed to issue a statement accepting full culpability for the incident. U.S. Assistant Secretary William Burns met with family victims last month to discuss the offer.
"At the very time the government of Libya has been seeking to put the terrorist destruction of Pan Am 103 behind it," Bolton said, "it's nonetheless pursuing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and ballistic missile systems that would make it still a grave threat to its neighbors both in North Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea, and indeed worldwide possibly."
In 1999, when Moammar Gadhafi sent two suspects in the bombing to an international tribunal in the Netherlands, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended lifting the sanctions altogether.
The United States prohibits oil companies from doing business in Libya under a series of laws and executive orders, while no such restrictions exist for European companies, including British ones. Indeed, Libya's standing in the international community has increased from its pariah status in the 1980s. In January, the U.N. Economic and Social Council voted for Libya to assume the chairmanship of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
In the interview, Bolton said he hoped the removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power would send a message to Libya, Syria and Iran. "We are hoping that the elimination of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be important lessons to other countries in the region particularly Syria, Libya, and Iran, that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high."