U.S. officials are pleased with Libya’s progress in fulfilling its December pledge to eliminate its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, as well as its long-range missiles, and have indicated that the United States will soon take steps to increase ties between the two countries.
U.S. and British weapons experts are currently assisting with and verifying Libya’s efforts to dismantle its weapons programs. During a Jan. 28 press briefing, Department of State spokesperson Richard Boucher termed Libya’s cooperation “excellent” and said the United States has removed “thousands of pounds of sensitive materials” related to Libya’s nuclear and missile programs. These materials include components for gas centrifuges, uranium hexafluoride, ballistic missile guidance systems, and nuclear weapons designs.
The United States disclosed in December that Libya had been developing a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment facility. Uranium hexafluoride is fed into the centrifuges, which can then produce either fuel for civilian nuclear reactors or fissile material for nuclear weapons. Tripoli had complete centrifuges and thousands of centrifuge components, but it did not have an operating enrichment facility. (See ACT, January/February 2004.)
Meanwhile, new details about Tripoli’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons emerged with the public disclosure of a secret nuclear network, run by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb (see page 22). During a Feb. 11 speech at the National Defense University, President George W. Bush said Libya obtained designs and components for its centrifuges through the network, run by Abdul Qadeer Khan. Bush noted that “German and Italian authorities” stopped a ship en route to Libya containing centrifuge components manufactured at a facility in Malaysia.
A Feb. 20 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the organization that monitors states-parties’ compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), shed still more light on Libya’s centrifuge acquisition. The report says that Libya had ordered 10,000 advanced centrifuges and had received two of them in 2000. It also stated that Tripoli had received “a considerable number of parts” as of December 2003.
In addition, U.S. and British intelligence officials told Malaysian law enforcement officials in November that “a certain amount” of “enriched” uranium hexafluoride was shipped from Pakistan to Libya in 2001, according to a Feb. 20 report from Malaysia’s inspector general of police. The IAEA report states that Tripoli has acknowledged importing this material in 2000 and 2001 but has not revealed its origin. Libya’s failure to report the acquisition was a violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement, the report says.
Additionally, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Libyan President Moammar Gaddafi’s son, told the London Sunday Times in an interview published Jan. 4 that Libya obtained designs for a nuclear weapon from Khan’s network. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Paula DeSutter confirmed this in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Feb. 26. According to the IAEA report, Libyan officials admitted obtaining such documentation in “late 2001 or early 2002,” but also stated that they did not take any steps to use the designs to build a weapon. The report does not reveal the documents’ source.
The U.S. and British governments also resolved an apparent disagreement with the IAEA over its role in verifying Libya’s efforts to dismantle its nuclear program. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated Jan. 19 that the agency reached an agreement with Washington and London under which the IAEA “will perform [its] verification responsibilities under the NPT” and the U.S. and British governments will remove weapons-related materials from Libya. ElBaradei had previously asserted that the IAEA would verify Libya’s nuclear activities by itself, but U.S. officials insisted that U.S. and British experts would play a major role.
Libya agreed in December to conclude an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Such protocols grant the IAEA greater authority to check for clandestine nuclear activities. Libya has not yet ratified the protocol, but a Jan. 28 IAEA press release stated that agency inspectors “have benefited from a high level of cooperation from the Libyan authorities.” The IAEA has inventoried the “sensitive nuclear components and materials” and supervised their removal by the United States as a team of agency inspectors continues to work in Libya, the agency said.
In addition, Libya Jan. 6 ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits the explosive testing of nuclear weapons.
Boucher’s Jan. 28 briefing also revealed that the “destruction of chemical munitions in Libya has already begun on the ground.” Libya had previously disclosed a stockpile of mustard agent, as well as unfilled munitions, dual-use precursor chemicals, and stored chemical-production equipment. On Jan. 6, Tripoli acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), fulfilling another of its December promises.
DeSutter told the committee that Libya destroyed two “unfilled chemical munitions” Jan. 26 in the presence of U.S. and British inspectors. A Feb. 27 press release from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the organization that verifies compliance with the CWC, said that Libyan officials provided a “partial initial declaration of their chemical weapons stockpiles” Feb. 20 and that the organization was to oversee the destruction of these munitions beginning Feb. 27. Libya is to submit a complete declaration to the OPCW March 5.
A U.S.-led delegation met with Libyan officials Feb. 6 in London “to begin a political dialogue about the future of U.S.-Libyan relations,” according to the State Department. The United States currently does not have diplomatic relations with Libya and still maintains a number of economic sanctions on Tripoli imposed in response to its past support for terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) activities.
Administration officials have said Washington will improve bilateral relations with Libya once Tripoli fulfills its pledges to forswear terrorist and WMD activities. Several steps have already been taken. The United States has sent a diplomat to staff an interests section in the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli, marking the first official U.S. representation in more than two decades. An interests section is a small diplomatic mission used for contacts between countries that do not have full diplomatic relations.
Additionally, the White House announced Feb. 26 that the United States was removing all travel restrictions to Libya nd allowing “U.S. companies with pre-sanctions holdings in Libya...to negotiate the terms of their re-entry into operations” there. The White House added that Washington must approve “the implementation of any agreements if sanctions have not been otherwise lifted.”
Also, since Gaddafi’s announcement, U.S. congressional delegations have visited Libya for the first time in decades. Recent travelers include Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House International Relations Committee; Representative Curt Weldon (R-Penn.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee; and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
The situation concerning sanctions is more complex. Although a senior administration official denied in December that the United States and Libya had “specific discussion[s] about lifting sanctions or any other specific benefits,” former State Department official Flynt Leverett wrote in a Jan. 23 New York Times article that, during two years of diplomatic discussions beginning in 2001, the United States offered Libya “an explicit quid pro quo…that a verifiable dismantling of Libya’s weapons projects would lead [to] the removal of our own sanctions.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell implied during a Feb. 11 House International Relations Committee hearing that U.S. officials explicitly held out lifting sanctions as a reward for Tripoli’s continued implementation of its December commitments during the Feb. 6 meeting. Referencing press reports that the United States had proposed lifting sanctions, Powell testified that administration officials are “laying out…[what] we are prepared to do” as Libya fulfills its promises.
However, Libya’s agreement to compensate the families of the victims of the Pan Am flight bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 could complicate matters. UN sanctions on Libya—imposed in response to the Lockerbie bombing and a similar 1989 attack on a French airliner—were lifted in September 2003 after Libya agreed to take formal responsibility for the attacks and compensate the families of the Pan Am victims. Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanim told The New York Times Jan.1 that the families will not receive their entire compensation package if the United States does not lift its sanctions by May 12. The British official interviewed Feb. 19, however, told ACT that the time limit is negotiable.
The following are the findings, initial assessment, and next steps that were published in a Feb. 20 report by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on Libya’s implementation of its NPT safeguards agreement:
Starting in the early 1980s and continuing until the end of 2003, Libya imported nuclear material and conducted a wide variety of nuclear activities which it had failed to report to the Agency as required under its Safeguards Agreement. These failures, and the corrective actions to be taken by Libya, can be summarized as follows:
The above failures show that, over an extended period of time, Libya was in breach of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement. The failure by Libya to report nuclear material, facilities and activities, particularly those related to enrichment, and its acquisition of nuclear weapon design and fabrication documents, are matters of the utmost concern.