Libya has announced it will halt all military trade with countries considered to be proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, including North Korea, Syria and Iran. The United States hailed the Libyan move as a "productive example" for other countries around the world.
The announcement carried by Libya's official news agency is a follow-on to its renunciation of weapons of mass destruction late last year, which has led to a renewal of political relations with the United States and an end to some U.S. sanctions against the Tripoli government.
The statement said Libya will henceforth not deal in any military goods or services with countries it considers to be of serious weapons of mass destruction proliferation concern.
U.S. officials say Libya is also preparing to renounce trade in missiles and missile-related equipment and know-how with countries that are not part of the 33-nation Missile Technology Control Regime, the MTCR.
The Libyan move drew an immediate welcome from the Bush administration's top arms-control official, Under-Secretary of State John Bolton, who called it an important step forward, and a further indicator of the seriousness of Libya's interest in abandoning weapons proliferation and rejoining the international community.
Mr. Bolton said Libya told the United States its self-imposed ban on military dealings applies specifically to North Korea, Syria and Iran, states he said are of "very great proliferation concern."
He said North Korea over the years sold Libya hundreds of Soviet-designed SCUD ballistic missiles including at least five of the long-range SCUD-C variants, and that Pyongyang has been using missile earnings to, among other things, finance its nuclear weapons program:
"The sales of the SCUD-B's and the SCUD-C's over a period of time was a pretty substantial money-earner for the North Koreans," he said. "And as we know, North Korea has been the world's greatest proliferator of ballistic missile technology. They have used the hard-currency earnings from that proliferation to finance their nuclear weapons program. So this is a symbol by Libya of a decision not to have any further purchases from North Korea of any military goods and services, particularly on the missile front."
Mr. Bolton said the Libyan decision was in line with an effort by the United States to as he put it "squeeze" North Korea's foreign weapons sales, in order to reduce the amount of money Pyongyang has available for its nuclear program.
Libya renounced weapons of mass destruction last December after months of secret negotiations with the United States and Britain.
The United States has since restored diplomatic relations with Libya at the so-called "interests section" level, and the Bush administration last month lifted most remaining U.S. restrictions on trade with Libya, including in the critical oil sector.
Mr. Bolton said the U.S.-supported process of dismantling Libyan weapons continues and that various types of toxic agents from the country's chemical weapons arsenal must still be disposed of.
Some U.S. sanctions against Libya remain in effect because it is still listed by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.