Libya to dismantle WMD programme

Libya’s leader Colonel Gaddafi has tonight promised to dismantle his country’s secret weapons of mass destruction programme, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced.

Mr Blair said the move followed nine months of negotiations between British, American and Libyan officials.

He said Mr Gaddafi had confirmed he had been secretly seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction, including long range ballistic missiles, but had approached the UK in March following successful negotiations over the Lockerbie downing of Pan Am flight 103 to see how the issue could be resolved.

Mr Blair, speaking in Durham, said after nine months of work involving the experts, "Libya has now declared its intention to dismantle these weapons of mass destruction completely and to limit the range of Libyan missiles to no greater than 300km''.

He said Libya had confirmed it wanted the process of dismantling the weapons programme to be “transparent and verifiable”.

British sources said that the talks with Libya had led to ``significant disclosures of nuclear, chemical, biological and missile-related activities''.

Today’s announcement came just two days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing on December 21.

Mr Blair’s statement was followed within 10 minutes by a similar announcement by US president George Bush in Washington.

Mr Blair said: “This courageous decision by Colonel Gaddafi is an historic one and a courageous one and I applaud it.

“It will make the region and the world more secure. It shows that problems of proliferation can, with goodwill, be tackled through discussion and engagement, to be followed up by the responsible international agencies.”

He said that Col Gaddafi’s decision had shown that it was possible to give up WMD “voluntarily and peacefully”.

And he sent a clear message to other countries suspected of developing illicit weapons, such as North Korea and Iran, that they too could restore good relations with the rest of the world peacefully, as Libya appeared to be doing.

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