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Blair Praises Libya Following Meeting with Gadhafi - 2004-03-25

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has praised Libya's cooperation in dismantling its nuclear and chemical weapons programs.

Mr. Blair spoke to reporters Thursday, on the outskirts of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Mr. Blair said Libya has provided full disclosure and unrestricted access to its weapons programs.

He said that although the United States and Britain knew Libya possessed such weapons, they did not know the scale, location or details until Mr. Gadhafi agreed to abandon the programs in December.

The prime minister is the first British leader to visit Libya in decades.

Since December, the North African country has welcomed international inspectors and signed an agreement allowing unannounced inspections of its nuclear facilities. Libya also destroyed a large stockpile of bomb casings built to carry chemical weapons.

The United States' relations with Libya are also warming. On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns met Mr. Gadhafi. Officials say Mr. Burns gave the Libyan leader a letter from President Bush on further steps toward improving relations.

In a related development, oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell announced Thursday, that it has signed an agreement to re-enter Libya in a long-term gas and oil exploration deal.