Dr Qadeer-linked nuclear market: IAEA seeks Libya’s help
* Praises Tripoli, but says ‘critical questions’ on nukes remain
VIENNA: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) praised Libya on Monday for cooperation in reporting on its dismantled nuclear programme but said “critical questions” remained as to whether Tripoli had given copies of nuclear weapons designs to other countries.
The UN agency said Libya and “other member states” of the IAEA would have to cooperate in investigating the Pakistani-run black market that supplied these designs, in a report released on Monday and obtained by AFP.
IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said: “We’ve had excellent cooperation” since Libya agreed in December to dismantle its programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.
But he added “to have a full picture of what happened is going to involve ongoing work, particularly with the black market.”
Gwozdecky said “critical questions” remained about whether Libya had made copies of the nuclear weapons designs it had obtained through the black market run by disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
“We want to know if copies were made,” he said. The investigation would focus on “getting information from the source of these (arms design) drawings,” which is the black market, he said.
In May, the IAEA said it would continue to investigate Libya’s abandoned nuclear program as much to discover new facts about Libya as about the international smuggling network that supplied it.
Monday’s IAEA report, filed ahead of a meeting of the IAEA board of governors on September 13, said that “nearly all of the equipment involved in Libya’s past nuclear activities was obtained from abroad, often with the involvement of private intermediaries.”
It said investigating these foreign connections was “by nature somewhat slow ... and will continue for some time.”
But the report said “good cooperation” from Libya “has enabled the agency to build an understanding of Libya’s previously undeclared nuclear programme.”
The US has called on Iran, which the IAEA is investigating on charges of secretly developing atomic weapons, to be as forthcoming about its nuclear program as Libya has been. The agency said it would not be compiling a further report on Libya for the next board meeting in November.
It said IAEA director general Muhammad ElBaradei would now merely give “periodic reporting of the agency’s verification activities unless circumstances warrant otherwise.” The IAEA has been overseeing Libya’s disarmament, which Tripoli agreed to last December 19 with the United States and Britain.
IAEA inspectors had earlier this year found contamination from highly enriched uranium (HEU), which could be weapons-grade, as well as low enriched uranium on gas centrifuge equipment in Libya.
This was similar to HEU contamination that has been found in Iran on centrifuge parts.
Monday’s report said the IAEA had received so-called environmental swipes taken as samples by an unidentified state, apparently Pakistan, “from the suspected supplier of the components.”
It said the state had “shared the sample data with the agency” but that the agency needed to take its own swipe samples to complete the investigation. But it said “the agency’s assessment to date is that Libya’s declarations on its uranium conversion program, enrichment program and other past nuclear related activities appear to be consistent with the information available to and verified by the agency.”
Associated Press reported that the UN agency failed to make a judgment on the origin of some technology for Libya’s weapons programme, a finding that diplomats said kept concern alive of North Korean involvement.
The IAEA also said that some of the equipment ordered by Libya as part of that programme was still missing, raising concerns that other countries or groups might have secretly received it.
The report confirmed that uranium hexafluoride was bought in 2000 “from a foreign supplier” but made no conclusion of where the substance originated from.
A senior diplomat familiar with the Libyan investigation said that indicated that the agency was still unclear on whether the uranium hexafluoride was purchased by a black market dealer from Pakistan or North Korea.
“If it’s North Korea, its obviously disturbing,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That means that North Korea was a member of the proliferator group, and so far we only knew of ... Pakistan.” agencies