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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 pdf document dismantle the Libyan program by removing materials and information.  After gaining access to nuclear sites in December 2003, the pdf document 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.


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