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Gadhafi hopes for new era of U.S.-Libya relations

'We don't have anything to hide'

U.N. inspectors will see
U.N. inspectors will see "we don't have anything to hide," Libya's Moammar Gadhafi says.

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CNN's Andrea Koppel talks about her meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
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TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) -- A subdued Moammar Gadhafi says he hoped his decision to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs would usher in a new era of relations between Libya and the United States.

In an exclusive interview with CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel, the Libyan leader said on Monday that while his country has certain programs and machines, it has no weapons of mass destruction.

"We have not these weapons," he said, adding that the programs he is prepared to dismantle "would have been for peaceful purposes -- but nevertheless we decided to get rid of them completely."

"There are many rumors, propaganda," he complained, adding that now that inspectors will be allowed access, they will see "we don't have anything to hide."

The interview in Tripoli came three days after Libya announced its decision to dismantle the program and allow international inspectors access to key sites. (Full story)

It was carried out inside a Bedouin tent in a tightly guarded rural compound half an hour outside the capital. Gadhafi, dressed in a maroon suit, wearing sunglasses and occasionally swatting at flies, appeared eager to send a message to the American people that this is a new era, he is a changed man, and Libya is not the terrorist state that the United States has considered it to be in recent years.

Gadhafi appeared relaxed as he spoke during the 20-minute interview, switching between English and Arabic, sometimes smiling and laughing.

Asked about his decision to dismantle programs and whether the Iraq war or the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein may have influenced him, Gadhafi questioned why Iraq had to be his role model.

"So many countries have a nuclear program and actually some of them have weapons of mass destruction and such countries actually dismantle these programs in a transparent way, in a legal way," he said through a translator.

The Libyan leader said the world is a changed place in which his country can feel safe without such weapons.

Gadhafi said he is simply following the example set by a number of other countries that have dismantled their weapons of mass destruction programs, and added that he hopes that other nations will follow his lead.

"I believe they should follow the steps of Libya or take an example from Libya, so that they prevent any tragedy from being inflicted upon their own people."

The Libyan leader did not describe what that tragedy might be but he did say that, by following Libya's example, other countries "would tighten the noose around the Israelis so that they would expose their programs and their weapons of mass destruction."

A two-state solution would not be best for easing tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, he said.

"If you want the safety of the Jews, they should live peacefully in one state with the Palestinians. That is a democratic state."

Asked if Libya was willing to help forward the peace process, he said, "Yes, of course."

Denies Libyan involvement in Lockerbie

Gadhafi also denied his nation's involvement in the 1987 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland -- despite a ruling by The Hague that a member of his government was directly involved.

Gadhafi refused to discuss the reason for his move, which was announced in back-to-back speeches by U.S. President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "The important thing is what we have done," he said. "It is a correct action, and to explain why now, why this, why that -- it is not important for America, for us, for the people, for the world."

Asked if he had received any assurances regarding the possible lifting of economic sanctions, he said only that he hoped that U.S. and British companies would "cooperate with us" and help Libya use their expertise in technology and industry "for peaceful purposes."

Asked if the agreement is the beginning of a new chapter between the United States and Libya, he said, "I do hope so."

Hans Blix, former chief U.N. weapons inspector, said he imagined "Gadhafi could have been scared by what he saw happen in Iraq." (Full story)

A Bush administration official said Libya's nuclear weapons program was "much further advanced" than U.S. and British intelligence had thought, and included centrifuges and a uranium enrichment program, all necessary components in making a nuclear weapon. (Full story)

U.S. officials said Libya also has a stockpile of chemical weapons and dual-use facilities that could be used to create biological weapons.

The Libyans said they no longer have programs to produce chemical or biological weapons and that they have a largely dormant program to develop medium-range missiles based on Scud technology.

CIA and British intelligence officials met with Gadhafi and other senior Libyan officials as the three governments negotiated the deal under which the Libyan government would give up its weapons of mass destruction programs, U.S. officials said.

CIA officials also visited key sites in Libya during a nine-month period of negotiations that started with meetings in various European capitals.

Al Qaeda likened to a cancer 'detected late'

Gadhafi's gentle demeanor during the interview did not obscure his characteristic bluntness.

Probed for his opinion of Bush, Gadhafi said: "We see dark aspects, and sometimes bright aspects. We do hope that the bright aspects would be predominant, because we have no interest or no benefit from the dark side."

Gadhafi was openly critical of the U.S. handling of last week's capture by U.S. forces of Saddam, who emerged disheveled and disoriented from a hole in the ground and was displayed on television as doctors inspected his hair and teeth.

"The way he was shown, the way he appeared, made everybody sympathize with him," Gadhafi said, adding that he voiced that opinion to Blair during a telephone conversation.

"Irrespective of everything, Saddam should be treated respectfully."

Gadhafi said Libya was doing its part to fight terrorism. "Terrorism is a common enemy," he said, adding that Libya had arrested terrorists who had traveled to Libya from Afghanistan seeking medical care.

But, he added, it is not clear whether the United States can defeat al Qaeda, which he likened to a cancer that has had a chance to grow.

"It was detected late -- or at late stages. That is why it is dangerous."

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