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CNN LIVE SATURDAY

Libya Promises to Give Up WMDs

Aired December 20, 2003 - 18:02   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We start, though, with Libya's dramatic shift. After years of isolation, the country linked to terrorism is now opening its doors to international inspectors. Libya also vows to abandon its weapons of mass destruction. CNN National Security correspondent David Ensor has more on the secret deal.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): British and American intelligence officers secretly traveled repeatedly to Tripoli to meet with Muammar Gadhafi and to survey Libya's weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities before the breakthrough was announced.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The direction of Colonel Gadhafi himself, Libyan officials have provided American and British intelligence officers with documentation on that country's chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programs and activities.

ENSOR (on camera): There were some surprises. Senior US intelligence officials say Libyan officials to process enriched uranium, the critical part of constructing nuclear weapons, were farther along than had been publicly known. Officials say the centrifuge equipment appeared to be in working order, although Libyans told them no bomb grade material had been produced. US officials refused to say how Libya obtained the equipment or when.

JOE CIRINCIONE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: We don't know yet if these were new centrifuges that they acquired recently from Pakistan perhaps, or just remnants of the old nuclear program that they had back in the 1980s, about 1990s.

ENSOR: In all, the Libyans showed US and British intelligence 10 different nuclear weapons related facilities.

DARYL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: It is also surprising that Libya had such extensive nuclear activities according to these early reports. And that is troubling. And that suggests that the international community needs to work harder to improve international verification in countries of concern.

ENSOR: On the chemical front, CIA and British intelligence officials were shown Rabat the Libyan chemical weapons plant and tens of tons of sulfur mustard agent ready for use.

CIRINCIONE: This was really the major weapon of mass destruction that they had.

ENSOR: And the Libyans showed their Scud-C missiles with a range of 800 kilometers bought from North Korea. At the CIA officials say the information from Libya on how they got their WMD capabilities will help find and close down sources and make it harder for others states and terrorists to acquire WMD. Officials say Libya will soon make public more about its weapons and its plans to destroy them.

(on camera): And in a remarkable sign of changing times, a senior intelligence official even said the hope is, quote, " to do some collaborative work with Libya against extremists groups like al Qaeda." In the not too distant future. David Ensor, CNN Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, as you can imagine Washington is welcoming Tripoli's decision. White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has more reaction. Suzanne, I am sure the Bush administration is very pleased that these negotiations have so far gone well.

MALVEAUX: Yes, they are Carol. And the White House says, however, it is too early to discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions, not until they believe that Libya can deliver on its promises. But officials saying that there is plenty of goodwill on both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Gadhafi: (speaking foreign language)

MALVEAUX (voice-over): Senior US intelligence officials say it was Colonel Muammar Gadhafi himself who was the driver and motivator behind the agreement to disarm. IN part, some officials say because Gadhafi was afraid he would face the same fate as Saddam Hussein.

BUSH: In words and in actions, we have clarified the choices left to potential adversaries.

MALVEAUX: The White House views Libya's move to disarm of vindication of its preemptive strike policy that while military action is the administration's last resort it will aggressively pursue those countries whose weapons programs are considered a threat to the US.

BUSH: Those weapons do not bring influence or prestige. They bring isolation and otherwise unwelcome consequences.

MALVEUAX: Gadhafi's envoys approached Britain to negotiate on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq at the height of the march to war. But some political analysts say Gadhafi's motivation to disarm was not fear but economics.

CIRINCIONE: Over the last six or seven years, Gadhafi has steadily moved toward Europe, wanting to integrate, focus on a program of economic development for Libya. That means he needs Western investment and markets. MALVEAUX: The prospect of Gadhafi doing business with the US has enraged some family members of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, for which Libya has claimed responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was stunned because 24 hours before we are going to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of our horrific act, Gadhafi was wheeling and dealing again.

MALVEAUX: The deal to end Libya's WMD program, according to Gadhafi's son is the product of trust built through diplomacy and not any pressure that brought other side to the table.

SAIF AL-ISLAM GADHAFI: As soon as we realized there was not a hidden agenda against us, that there is no real threat against Libyans and we can solve all problems through peaceful and amicable ways -- we responded."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: And while one administration official said don't expect anything state diners for Gadhafi here at the White House any time soon, U.S. relations with Libya are dramatically improving, a significant departure from former President Ronald Reagan's call in 1986 to the world community to treat Gadhafi as a pariah -- Carol.

LIN: Suzanne, is it too early yet for the White House, the Bush administration to be talking to who might be supplying Libya with the materials to make these weapons. And once they find out, if they find out, what actions they think the United States might take.

MALVEAUX: It certainly isn't too early for them to be talking about that. What it is too early, however, is for them to reveal who it is they are talking to. They are being very tight lipped about those details. But they do express some optimism. They say that they are willing and actually eager to work with Gadhafi's regime in actually taking al Qaeda and some of those extremists organizations to pass. They say that this is all about exposing those sources.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Suzanne Malveaux, reporting live at the White House.

So what is Libya hoping to gain with its apparent show of acquiescence on its weapons programs? Jim Walsh is a Mideast expert with Harvard University. Thank you very much for joining us today, Jim.

JIM WALSH, MIDEAST EXPERT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Good to see you Carol.

LIN: Well, it sounds like the fact that Moamar Gadhafi may have been trying to develop a nuclear weapon actually came as a surprise to you. Why is that?

WALSH: Well, I think most people who have studied Libya have doubts about its raw nuclear capability. It only has a small experimental research reactor. It doesn't have feedstocks. It is part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, so there were inspections going on. So most of us who study weapons of mass destruction thought that the real jewel here that the Libyans had were their chemical weapons not nuclear weapons. And that is still more or less true. They did not have a full enrichment program. They did not have an enrichment plant. What they had was a couple of centrifuges.

But even that makes it a more interesting story, because as you raised in the last segment the real question here is where did they get him. They didn't have the capability to produce them themselves, so where did they get them. And if they got them from Pakistan, we don't know that, but if they got them from Pakistan that would make Pakistan the world's worst proliferator in the history of the nuclear age, having sold material to North Korea, to Iran and then finally to Libya. So that would be quite an eye opening revelation if, in fact, that is the case.

LIN: Jim, we are going to pick up on that point in just amount, but you raised two very interesting points. Number one, the fact that the international community had been watching any weapon development going on in Libya. Has is it that this nuclear program flew under the radar? And what does that say about the International Atomic Energy commission's ability to actually monitor these activities around the world?

WALSH: Well, it is a great question, Carol. And I think we are going to have to wait and see, because we still do not have the full inventory of what Libya had. But based on what we have heard so far, which is they had centrifuges, they had centrifuge parts. They had not build a cascade. They had not built a plant. In other words, they hand built a facility that would have allowed you to produce enriched uranium. Moreover, they had not produced any enriched uranium. That is the material you use for nuclear weapons.

So it is at that point that the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, probably would have been able to discover that activity. So they were at the early stages. It was really they were importing material and technology not building the facilities.

LIN: All right, your second point then, where do you think Libya was able to get the materials. You raise Pakistan, what about north Korea, Iraq? What about any of the Westernized nations as well?

WALSH: Well, of all the countries that you named, Pakistan has to be suspect number one. First of all, unlike most of those countries, they had a full functioning enrichment capacity. North Korea, to the extent that they have any at all, it is only in the beginning stages. Similarly, Iran has a pilot plant but again it is only recently developed that. The number suspect has to be Pakistan. And if that is the case, you know, the reason that we are concerned about North Korea, one of the reasons is that we are afraid North Korea will sell this technology to rogue states. Well, it appears as though our friend Pakistan, again, we don't' know, but if it's true that our friend Pakistan has sold them to North Korea, Iran and Libya, what we need is not a nonproliferation policy but a Pakistan policy, because if it is true they are out of control. LIN: And if that were to be the case, then what should -- how should the Bush administration respond given its -- given its intent in Iraq, the war against Saddam Hussein to rid him of his weapons of mass destruction?

WALSH: Well, a lot of countries are going to wonder about this. We invaded Iraq. We threatened Iran. But we don't say, boo, about Pakistan. It is like arresting the person who buys drugs and never arresting the pusher, the person who is selling the drugs. We seem not to be arresting the country that is selling the technology to other countries we don't like. And part of that, you know, let's not kid ourselves, this is difficult because Pakistan is so crucial to the war on terrorism. We need Pakistan's help to defeat al Qaeda. But at the end of the day, we cannot afford a country to be the worse country in history as far as selling sensitive nuclear technology to other countries. We have to do something even if they are helping us with bin Laden.

LIN: Well, who was it who once said that there is no such thing as friends or enemies on the international stage only interests, Jim.

WALSH: It is certainly true in this case.

LIN: You bet. All right, thank you very much, Jim Walsh from Harvard.

WALSH: Thank you, Carol.

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