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UN atomic energy agency chief to visit Libya

UN atomic energy agency chief to visit Libya for talks on nuclear activities

The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today announced plans to visit Libya with a team of senior technical experts to quickly begin an "in-depth process" of verifying all of the country's past and present nuclear activities.

"We shall define the corrective actions that need to be taken and consult on the necessary steps to eliminate any weapons-related activities," IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference in Vienna.

On Saturday, Mr. ElBaradei met in Vienna with Matooq Mohamed Matooq, a senior Libyan official who informed the IAEA chief that Libya had decided to eliminate "materials, equipments and programmes which lead to the production of internationally proscribed weapons."

The IAEA was also informed that Tripoli had been engaged for more than a decade in the development of a uranium enrichment capability, including the importation of natural uranium as well as centrifuge and conversion equipment, along with the construction of now dismantled pilot scale centrifuge facilities.

Some of these activities should have been, but were not, reported to the IAEA under Libya's Safeguards Agreement with the Agency. Mr. Matooq stated, however, that the country's nuclear enrichment programme was at an early stage of development and that no industrial scale facility had been built, nor any enriched uranium produced.

According to the Agency, Libya has asked the IAEA to verify that all of Libya's nuclear activities will be under safeguards and exclusively for peaceful purposes. Libya has also agreed to take the necessary steps to conclude an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement, which will provide the Agency with broader inspection rights, and to pursue with the IAEA a policy of full transparency and active cooperation.

"Libya's decision to reverse course is a positive development and a step in the right direction," Dr. ElBaradei said. "I hope that through verification, dialogue and active engagement, all questions related to Libya's nuclear programme can be resolved and the required corrective actions taken."

Interviewed by UN Radio, IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said, "We expect and hope that Dr. ElBaradei will lead the first team to Libya as early as next week."

He added that Tripoli's decision should be emulated by others. "We hope countries out there which may have been dabbling with nuclear-weapons-related activities will follow the same example," he said.

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