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IAEA begins Libya nuclear inspections

From Andrea Koppel

Mohamed ElBaradei, left, and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam meet in Tripoli, Libya, this weekend.

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

TRIPOLI, Libya (CNN) -- Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited four sites in the Libyan capital Sunday to begin their assessment of the country's recently declared nuclear weapons programs.

An aide to the agency's director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said inspectors went to four sites around Tripoli, spending about three hours on initial inspections. More detailed inspections are scheduled to follow in coming days and weeks, the aide said.

No details of the inspections were released.

ElBaradei is scheduled to meet Sunday night with a Libyan deputy prime minister, Matooq Mohamed Matooq, and other top officials before leaving the country. A team of about 10 nuclear inspectors will remain behind to assess the Libyan nuclear program, ElBaradei's aide said.

After months of secret talks with U.S. and British officials, Libya acknowledged on December 19 its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and said it would abandon them.

It has promised to disclose details about its nuclear programs and abide by the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The IAEA and Libyan officials are developing plans to provide inspectors with documentation and additional details on the nation's nuclear weapons program, which ElBaradei said was at a "very nascent" stage.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry said the country's scientists had not yet developed a working plan for a nuclear weapon or developed the triggering mechanisms needed to set off a nuclear explosion.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said Monday that 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 interview with CNN, the Libyan leader said that although his country has certain programs and machines, it has no weapons of mass destruction.

The programs he is prepared to dismantle, he said, "would have been for peaceful purposes -- but nevertheless we decided to get rid of them completely."

He said inspectors will see "we don't have anything to hide."

This month marked the 15th anniversary of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people abroad and 11 on the ground. A Libyan agent is serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail for his part in the 1988 bombing.

Gadhafi acknowledged this year that Libya was responsible for the deaths of 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay compensation worth more than $2 billion to relatives of the victims.

The United States and Britain gave clear signs that Gadhafi's move on the weapons issue could lead to the final lifting of sanctions imposed in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing. (Full story)

Relatives of victims said the apparent deal by the West amounts to rewarding terror. (Full story)

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