UN nuclear chief leads Libya weapons inspections

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The Independent Online

UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei yesterday led inspections of facilities connected with Libya's nuclear weapons programme.

The visits to four previously unheard-of facilities followed the surprise move by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi more than a week ago to announce that his country would abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and allow inspections of its facilities.

ElBaradei, who heads the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, and nuclear inspectors visited four nuclear sites in the capital, Tripoli, a day after arriving in the North African nation.

Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for ElBaradei, told reporters that the inspectors toured the sites for a few hours before returning to their hotel. He described the sites as new facilities that "have never been mentioned in the media before."

No further details were available on the sites visited or what the inspection teams discovered, but ElBaradei said on Saturday that Libya appeared to be far from producing nuclear arms.

Gwozdecky said ElBaradei would meet with Matouq Mohammed Matouq, a Libyan deputy prime minister and head of the country's nuclear programme, to develop a "work plan for ... future" inspections.

Later on Sunday, Gwozdecky said a team of IAEA inspectors met with Libyan officials on "technical matters concerning the history of (Libya's) entire (weapons of mass destruction) programme."

ElBaradei is expected to meet with Libya's prime minister and foreign minister on Monday before returning to Vienna. Gwozdecky said some inspectors will remain in Libya until Thursday to inspect other sites.