Libya and Weapons of Mass Destruction - Nuclear Program - Foreign Assistance

Foreign Assistance

In 1970, in a meeting with Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China, Colonel Gaddafi made a failed attempt to purchase nuclear weapons from China. In 1974, while attending the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Lahore, Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (the Prime minister of Pakistan at that time) delegated Libya to participate in its clandestine program, Project-706. By the time Libyan technicians joined this program, Bhutto was executed by order of the Pakistan Supreme Court. The new Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) General Zia-ul-Haque distrusted and disliked Colonel Gaddafi, and Libyan scientists were carefully removed from participation in the project as they were told to leave the country immediately. During this time, Libyan Intelligence made attempts to infiltrate Pakistan's high-powered research institutes, but were thwarted by ISI who intercepted and arrested these Libyan agents.

Libya then turned to India, an arch rival of Pakistan, for nuclear assistance. In 1978, Libyan agents tried unsuccessfully to persuade India to sell Libya nuclear weapons. However, as part of India's Atoms for Peace program, a nuclear energy pact was signed by Libya and India, but it is unclear how much interaction and cooperation took place. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Libya continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons from various sources. In the 1970s, Libya pursued the uranium enrichment process and made an effort to gain access to uranium ore, uranium conversion facilities, and enrichment technologies that together would have enabled Libya to produce weapons-grade uranium. The approach failed in 1979, and in 1980 Libya decided to pursue a plutonium-based pathway to nuclear weapons. Libya imported 1,200 tons of uranium ore concentrate from French-controlled mines in Niger without declaring it to the IAEA, as required by its safeguards agreement. In 1982, Libya attempted to purchase a plant for manufacturing uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) from Belgium. At the time, Libya had no declared nuclear facilities that required uranium tetrafluoride, and the purchase was refused.

In 1980, Friedrich Tinner, a Swiss nuclear engineer from Switzerland and former IAEA employee, began to conduct experiments at the TNRF aimed at producing gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Tinner completed his work in 1992, but Libya remained unable to produce an operating centrifuge. In 1995, Tinner returned to Libya and tried to restart the program. In 1997, Tinner began to receive technical assistance from various sources, as Libya had made a strategic decision to start the program with a new attitude. Libya employed a large number of black market sources. In 1997, Libya received 20 pre-assembled L-1 centrifuges and components for an additional 200 L-1 centrifuges and related parts from foreign suppliers. One of the 20 pre-assembled rotors was used to install a completed single centrifuge at the Al Hashan site, which was first successfully tested in October 2000. Libya reported to the IAEA that no nuclear material had been used during tests on the L-1 centrifuges.

In 2000, Libya accelerated its efforts, still headed by Tinner. Libya began to order centrifuges and components from other countries with the intention of installing a centrifuge plant to make enriched uranium. Libya received many documents on the design and operation of centrifuges, but the program suffered many setbacks in evaluating these designs as they were too difficult to interpret and bring into operation. Libya ultimately told IAEA investigators that it had no national personnel competent to evaluate these designs at that time, and due to its extreme difficulty, Libya would have had to ask the supplier for help if it had decided to pursue a nuclear weapon.

Read more about this topic:  Libya And Weapons Of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Program

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