An American plane carrying components of Libya’s nuclear weapons and missile programs arrived Tuesday in the United States as Moammar Gadhafi follows through on a pledge to dismantle the program.
The plane landed at McGhee Tyson airport outside Knoxville, Tenn., carrying about 55,000 pounds of equipment, including stock to enrich uranium, centrifuge parts and guidance sets for long-range missiles, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
The equipment likely will be evaluated at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee. The “most sensitive documentation” associated with Libya’s nuclear program arrived by plane last week, McClellan said.
Also, the spokesman announced that Libya had begun destroying chemical munitions.
Libya hopes for end to diplomatic isolation
Gadhafi, trying to break out of diplomatic isolation and seeking a lifting of U.S. economic sanctions, promised last Dec. 19 to end development of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction.
“The world can see that Col. Gadhafi is keeping his commitment,” McClellan said.
However, the White House gave no indication it was ready to ease the U.S. economic squeeze on Libya, nor did the State Department say Libya’s designation as a supporter of terrorism would be canceled.
“As they take these essential steps and demonstrate its seriousness, its good faith will be returned and Libya can regain a secure and respected place among the nations,” McClellan said.
He said the shipments were “only the beginning of the elimination of Libya’s weapons.”
Rep. Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, met Monday in Tripoli with Gadhafi for 90 minutes and reported the Libyan leader intended to follow through on his pledge.
Lantos, in an interview, said he would urge Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., to join him in a bipartisan appeal to the Bush administration to show “good faith” in Gadhafi by ending a ban on travel to Libya.
Gadhafi’s historic turnabout, promoted by Britain with U.S. support, is being cited by the White House as a triumph in the campaign to halt the spread of nuclear technology.
U.S. to probe alleged Pakistani link
After Gadhafi’s pledge to abandon his quest for weapons of mass destruction, Secretary of State Colin Powell said “the next step is to make sure we have a clear understanding of what Libya possesses.”
Powell said the administration intended to pursue aggressively reports that Libya obtained much of its nuclear technology from Pakistan.
“We know that there have been cases where individuals in Pakistan have worked in these areas,” Powell said.
In the interim, administration officials gave no indication they were prepared to ease U.S. sanctions that have hurt Libya’s economy. In fact, Powell said last week he still considered Gadhafi a dictator.