Arabs urge Israel to follow Libya and dismantle weapons program
Libyan president Moammar Gadhafi has admitted trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, however now intends to dismantle all such programs, US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday.
Bush said Libya's decision - which would open the country to international weapons inspectors - would be "of great importance" in stopping weapons of mass destruction in a global fight against "terrorism."
If Libya follows through, the US leader said, "its good faith can be returned." He said Washington and London would make sure Tripoli kept its word, given its "troubled history," but added, "As we have found with other nations, old hostilities do not need to go on forever."
The Libyan news agency quoted Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam as saying Libyan experts had shown their US and British counterparts "the substances, equipment and programs that could lead to production of internationally banned weapons." These included a "centrifuging machine and equipment to carry chemical substances."
"Libya has decided, with its own free will, to get rid of these substances, equipment and programs and would be free from all internationally banned weapons," the news agency quoted the foreign minister as saying.
On Saturday, the news agency quoted a statement from Gadhafi saying "the decision was wise and deserved the support of the Libyan people...by taking this step, Libya will fullfil its international role of building a new world - free ofweapons of mass destruction and all kinds of terrorism..."
Blair said Britain and the US had been talking with Libya for nine months, after negotiating a settlement in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie that killed 270 people. Libya made the overture, hoping to resolve its weapons program "in a similarly cooperative manner," Blair said.
Meanwhile, at the White House, Bush said the war in Iraq and efforts to stop North Korea's nuclear program had sent a clear message to countries such as Libya that they must abandon weapons programs.
"In word and in action, we have clarified the choices left to potential adversaries," Bush said.
Without naming them, Bush added, "I hope other leaders will find an example" in Libya's action.
In the meantime, besides dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction, Libya stated that it wanted to limit the range of its missiles to the 186 miles, Blair said.
The immediate reaction for the Libyan step from major countries was positive. China praised the use of diplomacy in achieving a successful outcome. "China believes that political and diplomatic means are an efficient way of solving non-proliferation issues, and it supports strengthened international dialogue and cooperation in this respect," the foreign ministry said.
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign and security policy chief, also praised the patient diplomacy that brought about the agreement. "It clearly proves that diplomacy can win over proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons," he said, according to AFP.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the Libyan announcement was "a success for the entire international community. It is an important step towards the return of (Libya) into the international community."
Japan's cabinet secretary, Yasuo Fukuda, welcomed the Libyan announcement as "a step forward toward the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons."
For their part, Arab officials called on Israel to follow Libya’s example and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programs. Speaking two days before he was set to arrive in Israel for talks with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said, "I hope that other countries in the region... would follow such an example... get rid of and put an end to any nuclear weapons production program," Maher said.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the Libyan move "emphasizes the need for Israel to comply with all the regulations that prohibit the proliferation of weapons." "There should be no exceptions that would allow Israel" to have such weapons, Moussa conveyed.
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)