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Libya Admits to WMD Program; Vows to Dismantle - 2003-12-20


President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair say Libya has confirmed that it sought to develop weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, but now intends to dismantle the program.

At the White House Friday evening, Mr. Bush announced Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will allow the entry of international inspectors to confirm that any nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs are destroyed.

Speaking minutes earlier in London, Mr. Blair said Mr. Gadhafi vowed to dismantle the weapons program in a transparent and verifiable manner. A British official is quoted by Reuter news agency as saying Libya was close to developing a nuclear weapon and had significant quantities of chemical agents.

President Bush said he and Prime Minister Blair were contacted by the Libyan leader about nine months ago to relay his desire to disarm. Mr. Bush said U.S. experts were given details of the Libyan programs.

President Bush called the development a major step forward in efforts to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Bush said leaders who decide to abandon weapons of mass destruction will find -- in his words -- "an open path" to better relations with the United States.

In Tripoli, Mr. Gadhafi said Libya is now the initiator urging world states -- particularly in the Middle East and Africa -- to get rid of weapons of mass destruction programs. The Libyan leader said his nation is playing its world role in protecting international peace and building a new world free of terrorism and WMD.

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