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IAEA Praises Transparency in Libyan Nuclear Program - 2004-02-24

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency says he expects all traces of Libya's nuclear weapons program will be eliminated by June of this year. Mohammed ElBaradei says his agency is willing to help Libya develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses, once its weapons program has been completely dismantled.

Mr. ElBaradei has concluded two days of talks with Libyan officials on their country's progress in scrapping its nuclear arms program.

Speaking with reporters at Libya's foreign ministry, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency praised Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi and other Libyan officials for what he called their complete openness and transparency since Libya decided last December to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.

"We have been helping Libya to implement its decision to eliminate that program, and all the sensitive parts of that program have already been eliminated," said Mr. ElBaradei. "We still have some work to eliminate other parts that are less than sensitive but are no longer needed for Libya's peaceful program."

Mr. ElBaradei said the IAEA will support Libya's application of peaceful nuclear energy to such areas as agriculture, industry and water desalination when all vestiges of its nuclear weapons program have been dismantled and removed. He says Libya has agreed to dismantle a sensitive uranium-conversion plant and transform a research reactor using highly enriched uranium, which can be utilized to make bombs, into one that uses low-enriched fuel."

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul Rahman Shalgam urged other nations in the Middle East to follow his country's example and scrap their real or planned arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.

"Leader Qadhafi is working very much with other countries to persuade them that it is better to use the scientific potential of these countries for the sake of prosperity and progress of those countries and to make this region, [a] peaceful region without weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Mr. ElBaradei says his contacts with Libyan officials have provided his agency with information on the workings of a clandestine black market in nuclear equipment and know-how that IAEA officials believe supplied Iran and North Korea as well as Libya. That network was headed by Abdul Qadir Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program.

Mr. Shalgam says his country neither cooperated nor had contacts with Iran, which has acknowledged hiding its nuclear activity, but insists its program is aimed at producing electricity, not weapons. Mr. ElBaradei says his agency has not found any evidence of cooperation between the two countries.