Libya's Fatal Blow to Axis of Evil
December 21, 2003
David Pratt and Trevor Royle
The end of the threat posed to world peace and secure oil supplies by the axis of evil is emerging this weekend as the real prize that Tony Blair and George Bush have secured for Christmas.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the decision to renounce all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Friday night, but while at first it was thought this only had implications for Libya it is now clear that his decision has scuppered a secret partnership between Libya, Iran and North Korea formed with the intention of developing an independent nuclear weapon.
New documents revealed yesterday show that the three were working on the nuclear weapons programme at a top-secret underground site near the Kufra Oasis of the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as some Iranian and Libyan nuclear scientists.
North Korea and Iran, originally dubbed by Bush as the axis of evil along with Iraq, avoided detection by the International Atomic Energy Agencys (IAEA) inspectors by each member farming out vital sections of its projects to its fellow members.
Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its program, is badly hit, having counted on fitting into place key parts of its WMD project made in Libya. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.
Yesterday, Tripoli acted swiftly to prove its commitment to the world at large when the head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, met a senior Libyan official in Vienna to discuss eliminating the programme.
Almost 15 years to the day since Gaddafis agents brought down a PanAm jet over Lockerbie and eight months after US and British troops toppled Saddam Hussein, the Libyan leader has now opened the prospect of an end to sanctions and a return of US oil firms.
The news has delighted three American oil companies, Marathon, Amerada Hess, and ConocoPhillips whose Libyan leases were about to expire. They all pulled out of Libya in 1986 after the US imposed strict sanctions against the regime.
Tripolis announcement on Friday was the culmination of secret talks with Britain and the US launched around the time of the Iraq invasion. The initial approach to discuss how to bring Libya in from the cold was made by Libyas chief of intelligence, Musa Qusa, who contacted the British government in March, amid preparations for war on Iraq.
You could say that these discussions followed on from the Lockerbie contacts, a spokesman for Blair said yesterday. It was in March that the deal was done by Libya to settle with the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
Months of secret diplomatic activity followed which led to the clandestine three-week visit to at least 10 sites in Libya. British and US weapons experts who inspected laboratories and military factories in October and early December established that Libyan scientists were developing a nuclear fuel cycle intended to support nuclear weapons development. The British team also saw significant quantities of chemical agent and bombs designed to be filled with chemical agent.
Following the visit, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Blairs national security adviser, and Condoleezza Rice, Bushs national security adviser, held intense negotiations with Libyan officials in the days leading up to Fridays declaration.
Blair had his first-ever telephone conversation with Gaddafi on Thursday, in which they discussed the declaration.
Libya finally transmitted the statement to British officials at about 9pm and, after trans lation and an assessment on both sides of the Atlantic, it was released to the press at about 10.15pm.
The breakthrough capped a week of positive developments for London and Washington that began with the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and followed with a pledge from Iran to submit to unfettered inspections of its nuclear industry.
Bush implied in his remarks at the White House on Friday that there would now be reciprocity. As the Libyan government takes these essential steps and demonstrates its seriousness, its good faith will be returned. Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations, and over time, achieve far better relations with the United States.
Gaddafis move also sounds a warning for Israel. If Washington manages to dispose of Irans nuclear program and Syrias unconventional weaponry, attention will focus on Israel as the only remaining Middle Eastern nuclear power. http://www.sundayherald.com/38834