Libyan Nuclear Procurement Network Was Greater Than Expected, Experts Find

While Libya’s nuclear weapons program was only in its initial stages when its leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi decided to disclose and dismantle it, Tripoli had established an extensive procurement network to obtain the needed technologies and expertise for its efforts, the Financial Times reported today (see GSN, Jan. 21).

At the time Qadhafi disclosed his program last month, Libya had acquired most of the components needed to produce thousands of uranium enrichment centrifuges based on an advanced German design, according to the Times. Most of the materials for Libya’s nuclear efforts came from Asian and European countries and were shipped via the United Arab Emirates, with some shipments moving through additional countries, the Times reported. According to David Albright, president of Institute for Science and International Security, Libya also had “real time” access to nuclear expertise.

“This is a major intelligence failure and a major failure of export controls,” Albright said (Financial Times, Jan. 22).

He also said that the response of the intelligence community to the scope of Libya’s nuclear procurement effort is likely to rival that created by the discovery of Iraq’s nuclear efforts in the 1990s (Financial Times, Jan. 21).

A senior U.S. official said yesterday that the United States had been aware of Libya’s efforts, which increased after U.N. sanctions were suspended in 1999.

“The procurement program was across the board, not only on the nuclear side. They were buying for quite some time and a lot of stuff was still in shipping crates because they were just getting it in,” the senior U.S. official said. “It was what we thought they were up to,” the official added.

The senior U.S. official also said that “there are still shipments that have to be dealt with” (Financial Times, Jan. 22).

Libyan CooperationMeanwhile, a senior U.S. official said yesterday that Libya has been cooperating fully with a team of U.S. and British experts there examining how best to dismantle Libyan WMD programs, according to Reuters.

“As of now, the Libyans have been very cooperative ... it’s a day-by-day thing,” the senior U.S. official said. “Nobody has any complaints at this point,” the official added.

The U.S. and British experts are working to decide how best to dismantle and remove Libya’s nuclear program and how to dispose of mustard gas stockpiles, which will be destroyed in Libya, the official said. Libya has also denied possessing a biological weapons program, but “that is a subject for further discussion,” the official added (Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, Jan. 22).

According to the Associated Press, a second U.S. congressional delegation is expected to travel to Libya this weekend at Qadhafi’s invitation to evaluate his cooperation in dismantling Libya’s nuclear program.

The delegation, which will be headed by Representative Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, will meet with Libyan officials and possibly Qadhafi, AP reported. Lantos will report his findings to Congress and the Bush administration, his office said (Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Jan. 21).

January 22, 2004
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While Libya’s nuclear weapons program was only in its initial stages when its leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi decided to disclose and dismantle it, Tripoli had established an extensive procurement network to obtain the needed technologies and expertise for its efforts, the Financial Times reported today (see GSN, Jan. 21).

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