updated 3/15/2004 7:47:50 PM ET 2004-03-16T00:47:50

The Energy Department took a planeload of reporters from Washington to the federal nuclear weapons complex here Monday to view a display of 48 crates and boxes containing nuclear weapons equipment seized when Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program.

In Washington, meanwhile, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency said he hoped Libya would be a model for other nations.

Highlighting what the Bush administration views as one of its successes in halting the international spread of nuclear weapons technology, the Energy Department staged the display under an outdoor tent ringed by guards wearing body armor and carrying M-4 assault rifles.

Officials said the 48 wooden crates and boxes contained equipment used to make nuclear bomb fuel from uranium. Also on display were four of the centrifuges, which are used to separate uranium into its explosive components.

Libya got the equipment from an underground supply network headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a top scientist in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Earlier this year Khan admitted his role in supplying weapons technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Pakistan’s president has pardoned Khan, who is a popular figure in Pakistan for his role in developing the nation’s nuclear weapons.

The United States obtained the equipment late last year from Libya after that country agreed to give up its weapons of mass destruction program.

“The Libyan program has been dismantled under the agency’s inspection, under the agency’s supervision” and with U.S. cooperation, said Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Asked if the Bush administration was “showcasing” the equipment to make up for not finding weapons in the war in Iraq, ElBaradei said: “I’m not sure it is showcasing. I hope it is regarded as a good model of a country that has decided to move away from weapons of mass destruction.”

“We need to see that to be the beginning of a Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction and at peace — and same with Africa,” he told reporters after a meeting with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on proliferation efforts around the world.

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