Official: Libyan nuclear material in U.S.
From Elise Labott
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S plane filled with Libyan nuclear components landed this morning at a U.S. facility in Knoxville, Tennessee, for destruction, a senior administration official said.
"It is chock full of nuclear materials," the official said. "They let us take out some extraordinary stuff."
The C-17 filled with nuclear materials followed a planeload of documents -- which arrived in the United States last week -- related to Libya's weapons of mass destruction program.
The plane will return to Libya in early February to transport another load of nuclear materials to the United States, the official said.
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"They had a lot of stuff," this official said. "We have more plans to take materials out, but this is quite a step forward."
Libya has a substantive amount of chemical material, the official said, and some of it might be destroyed in the country because "some of the containers are leaking."
"Removing the chemical material poses particular problems," the official said. "We have to see."
The official said that the Libyans have been extremely cooperative and "there has been quite a commitment on the part of (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi's part to make this happen."
"The senior levels of both governments want to make this happen," he said.
U.S officials have said that once Libya demonstrates some progress toward it disarmament, the United States will move to reward them, including possible high-level visits by U.S. officials, putting a U.S. diplomatic presence in the U.S. interests section in the Belgian Embassy in Tripoli and easing some sanctions, such as the ban on using U.S. passports and spending money in the country.
On whether the Libyan cooperation has been enough to take steps toward renewing ties, the official said, "Given what we got out in the last planeload and (that) their cooperation has been excellent, it is time to consider it."
"The Libyans have kept their part of the bargain," the official said, but stressed this was a policy decision to be made by the president and voted on by Congress.
The official said two congressional delegations, one headed by Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, and the other led by Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pennsylvania, helped the situation.
Both congressmen met with Gadhafi.
"We told them initially we didn't want them to go because this agreement is fragile," the official said. "But the congressmen have every right to do this ... and they might have actually helped."
"Both delegations were very supportive of the president's policy," the official said, adding that during the meetings with Gadhafi, both sides reiterated the desire for better relations.
Libya is also looking for a formal restoration of diplomatic ties with the United States, reopening the U.S. Embassy and removing Libya from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.