Gaddafi seeks clean slate with move on disarmament

Dec 22, 2003 01:00 AM

Libya hopes to reopen relations with the West and gain lucrative oil contracts blocked by US sanctions as well as reap other economic benefits by abolishing weapons of mass destruction.
Under the surprise disarmament agreement by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Tripoli will open its nuclear activities to spot inspections by the UN watchdog agency, a diplomat said.

Libya believes their decision, made as a Libyan delegation met with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei, will return the country to the good graces of the international community.
"We are turning our swords into ploughshares, and this step should be appreciated and followed by all other countries," Libyan Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem said -- a clear reference to the United States, the one country that maintains sweeping sanctions.

The United States imposed sanctions in 1986, accusing Libya of supporting terrorist groups. Ten years later, America passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act that threatened to penalise the US partners of European companies that did significant business in Libya and Iran.
When the UN Security Council voted to abolish its sanctions on Libya in September, the deputy US ambassador to the world body, James Cunningham, said US sanctions on Libya would remain "in full force". Cunningham accused Gaddafi of actively developing biological and chemical weapons, upgrading its nuclear infrastructure, and seeking ballistic missiles to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

With the decision, Libya believes it has wiped the slate clean.
"What Gaddafi is striving for is reacceptance into the community of nations," said Henry Schuler, a Libyan specialist who has met Gaddafi and spent eight years in the North African country as an American diplomat and an oil company executive.
So far, Gaddafi seems to be winning friends, even in places where he might not want them. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said that the move on weapons of mass destruction could lead to his country's establishing relations with Libya.
"There is no conflict or animosity with the Libyan people. We are definitely willing to have relations with any nation or country in the world that is willing to recognise Israel as a sovereign or free country," Peled said.

However, Libya's state-run press made clear that Israel would have to follow suit with its weaponry. Libya's decision has reversed the "race" to produce weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and placed "exceptional pressure on Israel" to come clean on its nuclear weapons, which the Jewish state has neither admitted nor denied possessing.
In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Libya's move would have an "echo in the world -- including Israel, which should remove its weapons of mass destruction."

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