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IAEA Completes First Assessment of Libyan Nuclear Program

The International Atomic Energy Agency says its inspectors had visited nuclear sites in Libya that they did not know existed, and plan to conduct another round of inspections at the end of January.

Senior inspectors of the IAEA are to return from Libya Thursday, after completing the first assessment of Tripoli's nuclear program. This is the first such visit following a surprise admission by Libya's leader, Moammar Qadhafi, that Libya had violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming says the team visited four sites near Tripoli.

"These were sites that were previously unknown to the IAEA," she said. "The Libyans said that these were the major sites where they had worked on both uranium conversion and centrifuge enrichment. They had had some tests, but not using nuclear material. The inspectors found the equipment packed in boxes so they had already been dismantled."

Ms. Fleming said the Libyans want to sign a legally binding agreement allowing for unlimited inspections, but the requisite letter of intent has yet to arrive at the agency. The letter, once submitted, would go to the IAEA board of governors for approval, probably in March.

The IAEA says it will send the next team of experts to Libya in late January. Western diplomats say there are around 10 nuclear sites in Libya that need investigation. They say Libya is already allowing British and U.S. scientists unrestricted access to nuclear facilities.

The IAEA says Libya's nuclear program was in its infancy, but some diplomats say it is clear Libya's ultimate intention was to acquire the capacity to build nuclear bombs.