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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 12:06 GMT
Libya allows snap nuclear checks
File photo of Mohamed ElBaradei at the IAEA
Mohamed ElBaradei: Now there is a lot of work to do
Libya has agreed to allow immediate inspections of its nuclear facilities, the head of the UN nuclear agency says.

Mohamed ElBaradei, speaking at the end of a two-day visit to Libya, said the Libyans were being fully co-operative.

He said he and his team were shown a lot of dismantled equipment, suggesting Libya had still been several years from developing a nuclear bomb.

Earlier this month, Libya said it would abandon its aspirations of developing weapons of mass destruction.

Early stages

Mr ElBaradei and a team of experts from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were taken to four once secret nuclear sites.

"What we have seen is a programme in the very initial stages of development," Mr ElBaradei said.

They had been shown a lot of dismantled equipment stored in boxes that was relevant to an enrichment programme, he said.

But it was at an early stage of development. Libya had not actually enriched any uranium and Mr ElBaradei thought the country was still several years away from developing a nuclear weapon.

However, Mr ElBaradei said the Libyans had acknowledged that they should have previously declared some of this material to the IAEA.

During his visit, Mr ElBaradei held talks with Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham and Deputy Prime Minister Matouk Mohamed Matouk, who was in charge of the nuclear programme.

Additional protocol

The Libyans had promised full co-operation and full transparency, Mr ElBaradei said.

Several of the IAEA team are to remain in Libya to develop a work plan for further inspections and monitoring.

The Libyan authorities will immediately act as though they have already signed the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

This means the international inspectors can now carry out more intrusive checks if they wish.

Mr ElBaradei has said he will prepare a report to be submitted to the IAEA board of governors in March.

His trip came just days after the surprise announcement that Libya would give up its quest to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons after nine months of secret talks with Britain and the United States.

The BBC's Paul Wood
"A Libya anxious to demonstrate its new respectability"

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