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2003: Libya gives up chemical weapons
Libya has made a surprise announcement undertaking to destroy its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

The government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has also agreed to allow weapons inspectors into Libya immediately and unconditionally to oversee the elimination.

Under the agreement, Libya, which is included on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, will dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and limit the range of its missiles to no more than 300 km (186 miles).

It emerged that Tripoli has already allowed US and British experts to see elements of the weapons programmes during two trips to Libya in October and December this year.

Sanctions 'may be scrapped'

In its statement today, the Libyan Foreign Ministry said: "[Libya] believes that the arms race will neither serve its security nor the region's security and contradicts [Libya's] great concern for a world that enjoys peace and security."

The statement has been welcomed by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the US President, George W Bush, who made televised addresses almost at the same time.

President Bush said the agreement, signed after nine months of secret negotiations, would "make the world and America a safer place, and the world more peaceful".

He went on to hint that tough US sanctions on Libya would be scrapped if Tripoli kept its word.

Libyan approach

Mr Blair praised the decision as "historic" and "courageous".

"It shows that the problems of proliferation can be tackled through discussion and engagement," he said.

He revealed that Libya had approached Britain in March with an offer to open discussions on WMD.

Until then, intelligence officers had suspected that it was working on chemical and biological weapons but had never been able to confirm it.

Mr Blair said Libya had acknowledged it was working towards developing a nuclear weapon, and had got close to achieving its objective.

The breakthrough is the latest in a series of developments which have thawed previously frosty relations between Libya and the West.

One of the most significant was Tripoli's admission of responsibility in August this year for the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988, in which 270 people died.

Colonel Gadaffi agreed to pay $2.7bn compensation to relatives of those killed in the attack, paving the way for UN sanctions against Libya to be lifted in September.

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Colonel Gaddafi
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has made a long journey in from the cold

In Context
In March 2004, Libya submitted a full report on its chemical weapons programmes to the UN.

In it, the country declared a 20-ton stockpile of deadly mustard gas, as well as large amounts of chemical agents used in the manufacture of sarin and other toxins.

Later the same month, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a controversial visit to Libya to meet Colonel Gadaffi.

It was the first time a British prime minister had visited Libya since Winston Churchill in 1943.

Most US sanctions against Libya were revoked in April 2004, and diplomatic ties between the US and Libya were formally resumed in June 2004.

Libya's efforts to end its pariah status have also led to payouts for relatives of victims of two more bombings, one of a French airliner in 1979 and the other of a disco in Berlin, Germany, in 1986.

The United States boycotts on trade and importing Libyan oil were lifted in September 2004. In the same month, the EU lifted its last embargo, on the sale of arms to Libya. The US restored full diplomatic relations in May 2006.

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