Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi says he gave up his plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, because such weapons would have exposed Libya to danger, rather than protect it.

It was his first public reference at an international gathering to Libya's surprise decision last December to renounce its arms of mass destruction program. Colonel Gadhafi told leaders from other African countries that individual nations should not try to develop such weapons.

"Any national state that will adopt this policy cannot protect itself. On the contrary, it would expose itself to danger," he said.

Colonel Gadhafi told his colleagues that Libya is the second African country, after South Africa gave up its nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, to renounce building an atomic bomb. He said Africa has committed itself to become a nuclear free zone.

In a rambling speech at the closing session of a two-day summit, at which African leaders declared their intention to institute a common African defense and security policy, Colonel Gadhafi stressed that Africa must devote its resources to more urgent priorities than developing a nuclear bomb.

"A nuclear arms race is a crazy, destructive policy for economy and life. We would like to have a better economy and improve life," he said.

Although it has been rejected by his colleagues from other African countries as premature, Colonel Gadhafi took time to make a new pitch for his idea that Africa should have a single army. He says individual African countries do not need armies, on which he says they spend $14 billion a year. Such money, he says, should be devoted to health and education.

Under the common defense and security policy, the African Union would be authorized to intervene in border wars and internal conflicts on the continent. The policy stipulates the establishment of a pan-African stability force that could be dispatched to conflict areas at short notice. But African diplomats said the force would probably not be set up before 2006.

The leaders also issued a declaration calling for a common policy to boost Africa's agricultural productivity and manage its water resources.