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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 18:00 GMT
Libya 'not close to nuclear arms'
File photo of Mohamed ElBaradei at the IAEA
Mohamed ElBaradei: Now there is a lot of work to do
Libya was not close to producing nuclear weapons, the head of the United Nations nuclear agency has confirmed.

Mohamed ElBaradei was speaking at the end of a two-day trip to Libya - the first since the country agreed to give up its weapons drive.

Mr ElBaradei said the Libyans were being fully co-operative - but there was still "a lot of work to do".

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

Early stages

Mr ElBaradei met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the two-day trip.

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

They were shown a lot of dismantled equipment stored in boxes that was relevant to a uranium enrichment programme.

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
Colonel Gaddafi wants international rehabilitation
"What we have seen is a programme in the very initial stages of development," Mr ElBaradei told the BBC.

Libya had not actually produced any uranium and the country was still several years away from developing a nuclear weapon, he said.

The IAEA head said the Libyans had acknowledged that they should have declared some of this material to the agency in the past, but now there was co-operation and openness from Tripoli.

"What I've seen the last couple of days is full co-operation, full transparency on the part of Libya. I was assured by all levels of the Libyan Government that they are ready to answer any questions, that they have people available for interviews," Mr ElBaradei told the BBC.

Libya has given the inspectors some information about where it acquired the material for uranium enrichment, Mr ElBaradei said.

Much of it was thought to have entered the country on the black market, he said.

"They [the Libyans] will give us access to documents, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Additional protocol

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.




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