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Iraq War Prompted Libya to Give Up Weapons, says British Defense Minister - 2003-12-21

Britain's Defense Minister says Libya's pledge to give up its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs resulted at least partly from U.S. and British military action in Iraq.

In an interview Sunday with Sky News, Geoffrey Hoon said Libya's decision shows that the "policy of engagement" and dialogue favored by British Prime Minister Tony Blair can work.

But he said that policy has to be backed by the threat or use of force to be successful.

Mr. Hoon said he does not think Libya's decision can be separated from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last March.

He said the use of force in Iraq showed that the United States and Britain "mean business" when it comes to weapons issues. He said he hopes Libya and other countries have learned that lesson.

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

A U.S. intelligence official told reporters that Colonel Gadhafi consistently indicated he was ready to publicly admit to, and then eliminate his country's weapons of mass destruction.

Secret meetings in Tripoli were followed by a telephone conversation last week between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Colonel Gadhafi. On Friday, the Libyan leader announced his decision to do away with the weapons.

American and British experts say they were taken to dozens of Libyan 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.