On 19 December 2003, Libya publicly declared and then renounced its clandestine nuclear weapons program. This announcement came after 9 months of secret negotiations between the Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Libya was also pressured to eliminate its nuclear weapons program after the United States and its allies under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) intercepted a shipment of enrichment centrifuges destined for Libya in October 2003.
Since the 1970s, Qadhafi had expressed strong interest in acquiring and building nuclear weapons in response to the Israeli nuclear program. Despite being a non-nuclear weapons state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1975, Libya successfully procured nuclear weapons designs, natural uranium and centrifuges through the clandestine nuclear black market headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The NPT prohibits the transfer of such materials, and does not allow non-nuclear-weapons states to acquire them.
The United States and other countries helped dismantle the Libyan program by removing materials and information. After gaining access to nuclear sites in December 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the former existence of an incipient nuclear weapons program. It is estimated that Libya was still 3-7 years away from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
As an incentive for giving up its nuclear weapons program, in September 2004, the United States lifted economic sanctions that had been in place since the 1980s over Libya’s sponsorship of terrorism.
- Libya Adds New Pieces to Its Nuclear History. Peter Crail. Arms Control Today, October 2008.
- Chronology of Libya's Disarmament and Relations with the United States. Arms Control Association Fact Sheet, May 2008.
- Libya Pledges to Dismantle WMD Programs, Statement by President Bush, 19 December 2003
- White House Fact Sheet on Libya's Pledge to Dismantle WMD Programs, 19 December 2003
- Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, IAEA Report, 20 February 2004
- White House Statement on Libya, 26 February 2004
- U.S. Government's Assistance to Libya in the Elimination of its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), Testimony by Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 26 February 2004
- DG Statement to Board of Governors, 8 March 2004
- Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, IAEA Board of Governors Resolution, 10 March 2004
- Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, Human Rights and the Future of U.S. - Libyan Relations, Testimony by Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance before the House International Relations Committee, 10 March 2004
- Disarming Libya: Weapons of Mass Destruction, Congressional Research Service, 22 April 2004
- UN Security Council Statement on Libya, 22 April 2004
- Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, IAEA Report, 28 May 2004
- Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement by Libya, IAEA Report, 30 August 2004
- IAEA Director General’s Press Statement on IAEA Inspection in Libya, 13 September 2004
- Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, IAEA Report, 30 August 2004
- Completion of Verification Work in Libya, Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary for Verification and Compliance, Testimony before the Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights, 22 September 2004