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IAEA Chief Praises Libya's Cooperation with Weapons Inspectors - 2003-12-29

According to the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Libya is honoring its pledge to cooperate with weapons inspectors in the process of dismantling Tripoli's programs for production of weapons of mass destruction.

Libya is showing a good deal of cooperation and openness to U.N. weapons inspectors, according to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Speaking in the Libyan capital, Mr. ElBaradei said his team of inspectors had been shown equipment for the enrichment of uranium, which could be used to purify the material for nuclear weapons.

But the IAEA chief said Libya's uranium-enrichment program was at a very initial stage. He described Libya's uranium centrifuge equipment, which had been dismantled and boxed, as being quite sophisticated.

Mr. ElBaradei also announced that Libya had committed to act as if the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is already in force. Libya has said it will sign the additional protocol, which allows for unannounced inspections of its suspect nuclear-weapons programs.

Mr. ElBaradei is heading a team of international inspectors in Libya, following Tripoli's surprise announcement earlier this month that it had been seeking to produce banned weapons of mass destruction.

The Libyan government indicated it was abandoning all efforts to produce banned weapons, and invited IAEA inspectors to Tripoli to help begin the process of dismantling those weapons programs.

Mr. ElBaradei flew from Tripoli to Vienna, after having spent 2.5 days in Libya. The remaining team of inspectors is scheduled to continue working in Libya until Thursday.