July 24, 2006

Gaddafi says Libya came close to building bomb

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose
country abandoned weapons of mass destruction programmes in
2003, said that at one stage Libya had come close to building a
nuclear bomb, the Libyan news agency reported on Monday.

"It is true that Libya came close to building a nuclear
bomb. This is no longer a secret ... as everything was laid
bare by the International Atomic (Energy) Agency for everyone
to see," the agency quoted Gaddafi as saying on Sunday in a
speech to Libyan engineers.

"The programs and equipment (to build a nuclear bomb) are
known," he added.

It was the first time any Libyan official has confirmed
that the north African country of more than five million had
been trying to build a nuclear bomb.

Gaddafi, who was speaking mainly about the country's need
for economic self-reliance, referred to Libya's efforts to gain
the bomb as one of several examples of Libyans being successful
in challenging endeavors. He gave no further details.

In December 2003 Libya said it was abandoning its weapons
of mass destruction programs and would allow in international
weapons inspectors.

The move was the most startling of several by Libya that
helped the OPEC oil producer to repair relations with the West
after decades of estrangement over Western allegations that
Libya supported terrorism.