Libya delivers drawings for nuclear weapons

Saturday, January 24, 2004

VIENNA, Austria -- Libya gave U.N. inspectors drawings of a nuclear weapon, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday, the clearest sign yet that Libya was at some point serious about building such arms. "We have put those drawings under our seal, and they are secure," Mark Gwozdecky, chief spokesman for the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, said without elaborating. Asked about the significance of the development, a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said "it's the first time anyone has acknowledged" that Libya entertained intentions of building such a weapon.

Agency inspectors are in Libya, along with a separate team of U.S. and British experts to take inventory of its nuclear arms program, part of plans to scrap the weapons of mass destruction that the country admitted to possessing last month.

The diplomat, who is familiar with the agency's work in Libya, said the drawings were not of a complete weapons system including a missile or other means of delivery but more like a warhead. He described it as, "a device that goes boom, which can be put on a missile or can be put into a bomb form."

He said that members of the joint U.S.-British team would be taking the drawings out of Libya within the next few days to evaluate them.

The nuclear agency declined to comment further, but a disarmament expert following its work in Libya said the drawings were not produced by Libyan scientists but were procured from foreign sources.

The expert, who also asked he not be identified, said either the agency team or the British and American experts were also hoping to take possession of components to make weapons.

That would be another major signpost on Libya's nuclear weapons trail. Up to now, IAEA officials have described the country's effort to make such weapons as in the starting phase and suggested the country possessed little more than centrifuges to enrich uranium -- possibly to weapons grade -- and related equipment.

But centrifuges also have peaceful uses -- creating low-grade enriched uranium to generate energy for instance. The expert said the weapons-making components would not serve such "dual use" purposes but be along the lines of high explosives, or vacuum induction furnaces to melt plutonium or uranium for warhead use.

The fact that the drawings were produced abroad are bound to further raise alarm bells in Washington and other capitals concerned with the relative ease weapons expertise can be acquired by a country looking to build nuclear arms.

The drawings -- and any find of weapons making components or equipment -- are also likely to fuel discussion of how far along the nuclear weapons road Libya was. Washington says the country was advanced, whereas the IAEA has maintained its programs were at the starting stage.

International attention is focusing on Pakistan or Pakistani nationals as suppliers of nuclear technology and expertise to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

For years Pakistan has rejected allegations. But the country started hedging in December, saying individuals motivated by ambition or greed may have sold secrets.

Under an agreement reached earlier this week, the IAEA has the role of establishing the scope and content of Libya's nuclear program. Once IAEA verification is complete, U.S. and British experts are to remove suspect materials from the North African country.

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