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Months of Secret Diplomacy Led to Libya Weapons Decision - 2003-12-21

U.S. and British officials say Libya's decision to abandon its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs happened after months of secret diplomacy in which even Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was involved.

An American intelligence official tetold reporters that Colonel Gadhafi had obviously done his homework for the late-night, clandestine meetings, which are said to have taken place in Tripoli earlier this month and back on October. The official says Libya's leader was consistent throughout in his intentions to publicly admit to, and then eliminate his country's weapons of mass destruction.

Those clandestine meetings were followed by a telephone conversation last week between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Colonel Gadhafi, who announced on Friday his decision to do away with the weapons.

American and British experts say they were taken to dozens of weapons sites in recent months, including 10 facilities developing nuclear weapons. Libya's nuclear capability was said to be more advanced than had been expected.

The experts say they were struck by the complete access that Libya was apparently giving them. A senior American analyst described it as the most remarkable disclosure he has experienced in 30 years of work in the field.

Libya's chief of scientific research met Saturday in Vienna with Mohammed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency. The meeting was to arrange for IAEA inspections.