Japanese firm sold Libya uranium conversion plant
VIENNA: A Japanese company sold Libya machinery in the 1980s that Tripoli used in its unsuccessful attempt to build a nuclear weapon, diplomats and nuclear experts said.
In December, Libya announced it was abandoning its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes and would dismantle them with the help of US, British and international experts. The UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began weapons inspections in Libya in late December and issued a report last month in which it described how Libya had acquired “from abroad” a pilot uranium conversion plant that could be used to prepare uranium for the enrichment process.
“It was a Japanese company,” a nuclear expert said. Several Western diplomats who follow the IAEA said the firm was Japanese.
The Japanese mission to the United Nations neither confirmed nor denied it, but Shigeru Umetsu, the mission’s first secretary emphasised that Japan did not take non-proliferation lightly.
“Although we cannot comment on the specific case of Libya, I can assure you that Japan has always taken the issue of non-proliferation seriously and has implemented strict measures to prevent proliferation,” he told. A February 24 report on inspections in Libya written by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei made it clear Libya’s weapons programme was much more extensive than previously thought. Tripoli had even managed to produce a small amount of bomb-grade plutonium.
Diplomats said the Japanese sale of the conversion equipment, made to order according to specifications from Libya, is something that should have set alarm bells ringing in Japan and should have been reported to the IAEA at the time. —Reuters