News & Policies
History & Tours | Kids | Your Government | Appointments | Jobs | Contact | Graphic version
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 19, 2003
Press Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
6:02 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good evening. As the President has just announced, the Libyan Foreign Minister earlier tonight has stated that his government would disclose and dismantle all weapons of mass destruction in his country.
The Libyan statement, which we can provide to you, noted that Libyan experts had showed to U.S. and UK counterparts materials and equipment, including centrifuges and chemical munitions, and all programs for internationally proscribed weapons.
Libya, in this statement, promises that, "of its own free will has decided to eliminate these materials, equipment and programs so that Libya may be completely free of internationally proscribed weapons." In the statement, Libya also agrees to restrict itself to missiles with the range consistent with the MTCR parameters, which are 300 kilometers in range, with a payload of 500 kilograms.
In the statement, Libya accepts that these steps will be taken in a transparent and verifiable manner, including immediate international inspections.
And, finally, the Libyan statement confirms that Libya will be bound by the NPT, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the safeguards agreement of the IAEA, and the biological weapons convention. And it will accept additional obligations, including the additional protocol to the IAEA safeguards agreements, and the chemical weapons convention.
Colonel Ghadafi has since released a public statement supporting and confirming the statement by the Libyan Foreign Minister. These statements and these commitments follow in-depth discussions held between Libya, on the one hand, and U.S. and UK experts on the other. Discussions or contacts began last March and include two separate visits to Libya by experts -- one held in October, and one in December. Earlier this week, we held policy-level discussions with the Libyans.
Let me go through the progress that I believe we have achieved in four strategic areas. First, on nuclear issues. Libya admitted to nuclear fuel cycle projects that were intended to support a nuclear weapons program, weapons development, including uranium enrichment.
The team was given access in Libya to more than 10 sites connected to Libya's nuclear activities. The team was given access to large amounts of specialized nuclear equipment and related documentation. And the Libyans agreed to eliminate all program elements associated with their nuclear weapons program. The Libyans, as I mentioned, also pledged to declare all of their activities in the nuclear case to the IAEA, to accept the obligations under the additional protocol which allows for expanded inspection rights, and to abide by all of its commitments in the safeguards arrangements and in the NPT.
On chemical weapons, the Libyans showed us a significant quantity of mustard -- a chemical agent -- that was produced near Rabta more than a decade ago. They showed us aerial bombs that were designed to be filled with mustard agent on short notice. They showed us equipment in storage that could be used to outfit a second CW production facility. They showed the team dual use chemical precursors that could be used to produce both mustard and nerve agent. And they reiterated their commitment to complete the Libyan accession to the chemical weapons convention and they committed to destroy all chemical warfare, stocks and munitions.
On biological issues, Libya admitted to past intentions to acquire equipment and develop capabilities related to biological weapons. At the team's request, Libya took our experts to a number of medical and agricultural related research centers that have dual use potentials to support BW-related work. The team was given access to scientists at these facilities, and Libya has committed not to pursue a biological weapons program and to accept the necessary inspections and monitoring to verify that undertaking.
And, fourth, on missile related issues, Libya admitted elements of the history of its cooperation with North Korea to develop extended range scud missiles. They provided us access to this system and related production facilities. The team was given substantial access to Libya's operational scud B missile force and also was able to visit many locations where missile research and development work is conducted. Libya described in detail elements of the history and status of its indigenous missile development efforts. And I think very significantly, Libya agreed to destroy all ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 300 kilometers, and payloads greater than 500 kilometers, the parameters that are set in the missile technology control regime. And, finally, Libya agreed not to develop or deploy missiles beyond those limits.
Just a note on remaining uncertainties. Our experts have assessed that Libya's disclosures about its nuclear, chemical, biological and missile-related efforts are a major step toward revealing and ending those activities. While Libya was forthcoming in many areas and provided considerable detail on past activities, there are a number of issues we continue to explore. We will continue to work to collect additional information and to closely monitor Libya's adherence to the commitments it has made.
In terms of next steps, Libya has pledged to work with the IAEA and the OPCW on the chemical side, and other appropriate mechanisms to declare fully their nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile-related activities, and to provide the necessary information and access to verify that they are not pursuing these programs.
Libya will be required to make a comprehensive and detailed set of declarations in the near future, and we will work with our international partners and with the Libyans to ensure that there is complete fulfillment of the commitments that have been made today, including its commitments to eliminate all program elements associated with its nuclear weapons programs, all CW stocks and munitions, and all missiles beyond 300 kilometers.
These commitments follow in-depth discussions at the expert level, discussions that have proved to be very fruitful. I think that the commitments on the part of Libya to eliminate its WMD programs and limit its missile force clearly is a result of the President's determination to combat weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.
Let me just note that the President stated earlier that the United States is applying a broad and active strategy to address the challenge of proliferation. As he cited, we use diplomacy, we act through decisive measures that are sometimes needed to make diplomacy credible. We have improved our intelligence capabilities in order to be able to trace the dangerous weapons activity that occurs. The President cited the proliferation security initiative, which is designed at a multilateral level to interdict dangerous materials and technologies in transit.
And we have insisted on a multilateral approach with North Korea and have worked, again, in a multilateral context in the IAEA to ensure that Iran fulfills its commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons.
All of these actions by the United States and our allies -- and we have worked every step of the way with our allies -- have, I believe, sent an unmistakable message to regimes that are seeking or that possess weapons of mass destruction: these weapons do not bring the benefits of security, as the President stated; they bring isolation and unwelcome consequences. But the President also emphasized another message, and I think that message is very clear in the Libyan case: leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them will find an open path to better relations with the United States.
In summary, I think this is an intelligence victory, it's a diplomatic victory and it's a victory for allied cooperation. The President's policies on non- and counter-proliferation have achieved a major victory. And they have provided an opportunity to other countries to take the same steps that Libya has taken today, and we hope that those other countries will take the right choice -- because there are two paths: one is cooperation, and that's the path that we see unfolding today; the other we have seen in other circumstances.
Let me stop there.
Q Sir, what's your understanding of why Libya was stockpiling and developing these weapons? Were they trying to menace their neighbors, hook up with terrorists, sell them for profit? And, also, how close were they to a nuclear bomb?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's difficult to get into intentions. However, we have long been concerned about the actual capabilities of Libya. We have assessed that Libya has for some time had an active chemical weapons program, and, in fact, we have now seen the stockpiles of both munitions and chemical agents. Why they pursued chemical weapons, that would be speculation on my part.
Q And how close --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think a perverse sense that it would bring them greater security and greater prestige. And it brought them neither. And I think the message is very clear from what they've done today that other states should not see WMD as a path to security or prestige.
Q What's your understanding of how close they were to having a nuclear bomb?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't get into that, specifically.
Q Were you surprised at the extent of what they had? Is there anything they had that surprised you? Did you know they had this much quantity and technology and equipment?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we were not surprised on the chemical side. On the nuclear side, I think that -- and you should probably talk to an intelligence expert on this -- but my understanding is that they did have a much further advanced program, including centrifuges.
Q Can I follow on that point? First of all, how many centrifuges did they show you or did they declare? What kind of centrifuges were they? Were they a familiar design to you? And do you have any indication that they had actually produced HEU and did they say in what quantities?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd prefer not to get into the specifics. We did see both full up centrifuges, as well as thousands of centrifuge parts.
Q Did you see cascades, were they individual centrifuges or were they in cascades?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We did not see a cascade up and running.
Q Did you see a facility for a cascade?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure. The answer is no, we did not see an enrichment facility; we saw the components that would make for an enrichment facility.
Q Did they declare that they actually had produced any significant quantities of HEU?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They did not declare that.
Q Can I ask you question about --
Q Can you talk about -- can you talk about how this all came about? Who prompted these meetings? Who started the discussion? Did it come from the Libya side? Did it come from the U.S., the UK?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It came from the Libyan side in March.
Q Any more detail on that? Any more detail? Did Mr. Ghadafi actually call? Or was it at a lower level?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, any contact with the United States and the United Kingdom at this level on the sensitive issue of weapons of mass destruction, I would assume, would have Mr. Ghadafi's support.
Q In March, before or after the war?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was mid-March.
Q So the war started?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I've got to go to the back.
Q Thank you very much. Two questions, if I may. Were there any indications that any of these weapons Ghadafi possesses, any indication that they belonged to Saddam Hussein, that he'd shipped them over there, and that Ghadafi was storing them or warehousing them for him? And the second question is that a few years ago -- I spent most of my life at the Pentagon -- Libya was building a huge chemical facility in a mountain, in central Libya. Have you had a chance to look at that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is no direct -- there is not indication -- there is no indication that the components of the nuclear weapons program or the chemical stocks and munitions came from Iraq.
In terms of the facilities for production of chemical munitions, these munitions were -- these agents were produced Rabta.
Q So can I just ask you two questions. What about --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Rabta.
Q Can you spell it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: R-a-b-t-a.
Q First, what now for Libya? What does this mean, in terms of the lifting of U.S. sanctions? And as I understand the agreement -- in the Lockerbie agreement, there was an eight-month timetable. And if U.S. sanctions are not lifted, then half the payout that goes to each of the Lockerbie victims, will -- they won't get half that pay-out. So that's the first question about U.S. sanctions.
And, sorry, just to be clear, just so I understand your point about March, it happened in the middle of March, and it was initiated by Libyans, is that correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct.
Q Did they reach out to the U.S.? Did they reach out to the UK -- in mid-March?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The initial contact was through the UK, but it was to have this discussion with the UK and the U.S. jointly. This has been joint from the beginning.
Q So was it just before or after the -- before or after the beginning of the war, the 19th?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, it was mid-March.
Q Before or after the 19th?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. I don't have that. I can probably get that for you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just, with regard to the question on sanctions, the President made very clear in his statement that Libya's action today opens the door to the possibility of better relations. And we've indicated to the Libyans all along that we're prepared to talk about the remaining bilateral sanctions that apply. What happened as a result of the Lockerbie settlement, as you know, is that the multilateral sanctions were lifted. And so as the Libyans fulfill their commitments, we'll be prepared to talk to them about the prospect of better relations.
Q Within this eight month timetable?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, this is going to depend on how fast the Libyans move in fulfilling their commitments.
Q A follow up on those earlier questions on how this came about. How about today's announcement? Why the timing of the announcement today, right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I mentioned, there was a second visit in December and at that point, with the second visit, we had acquired -- again, jointly -- the U.S. and UK had acquired sufficient information where we were comfortable moving to this point. We had political discussions earlier this week and we were able to, over the last couple of days, come to the point of these announcements.
Q Did those political discussions involve Colonel Ghadafi, personally?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He was not in attendance at those discussions.
Q Who was the highest Libyan official? Was it a foreign minister?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was one of the ambassadors in Europe, and it was -- intelligence officials.
Q And who made the initial contact in mid-March to the British? Which official?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would have to check.
Q And where were those meetings, the recent ones, this week?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In London.
Q What's your understanding of the motivation for giving up these weapons? I know it's hard to judge motivation, but you discussed this over nine months. And has Colonel Ghadafi changed his spots?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think, as I said, that the outcome today is a response of the policies that we have pursued. We have followed the strategy that has been promulgated by this administration, a strategy that is very realistic in dealing with the challenges of weapons of mass destruction. We have, I think, along with our friends and allies and others, made very clear that weapons of mass destruction are not the path to security and prosperity and prestige. In fact, weapons of mass destruction will bring quite the contrary. And part of our strategy is to create this opportunity, an opportunity that Libya has taken today, to voluntarily give up their weapons of mass destruction. And we hope that the Libyan actions will be an example for others.
Q Sir, what's the next step? Where do we go from today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, on the weapons side we will have the IAEA on the nuclear, the OPCW on the chemical, and other mechanisms to deal with the biological and the missiles to have the full declaration, to have in-depth inspections, and to begin the elimination process.
Q Which countries or terrorist organizations do you suspect that Libya may have been either sharing their programs with or their technology with, if any?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have anything on that.
Q You talked about viewing mustard, other stocks of both chemicals and equipment. Who was included on those teams that viewed that? Where and when did you do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These were teams made -- comprised of intelligence experts in the areas of nuclear, chemical, biological and missiles from both the United Nations and the United Kingdom. The first visit was in October, and the second in early December.
Q Excuse me, do you have dates for that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have that specific dates.
Q Early December was before the capture, though?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry?
Q Before the 13th of December?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, yes.
Q And how many -- how many pairs --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With the political discussions following that.
Q How many pairs of eyes were actually looking at the stuff? Were they allowed to take photographs? Were they allowed to make some type of recording? And how much of the country was included --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Libyans were quite open. They provided access to facilities. They provided substantial documentation about their programs. And we were able to take samples and to take photographs and other evidence.
Q Did the documentation include indications of where they got the designs for the centrifuges, what countries supplied them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to get into that.
Q Were they -- could you tell us whether they were an indigenous design?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to get into that.
Q It says on the fact sheet that we were given that Libya has agreed to additional inspections regimes. Is that direct inspections by the U.S. and the UK? Or is it only inspections under international organizations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is yet to be worked out. Clearly, it includes -- because of their agreement to sign up to the additional protocol -- a more intrusive set of inspections by the IAEA. They're going to join the CWC, which will bring in the OPCW -- both for inspections, as well as for elimination. And then there will be other means pursued.
Q And if I could just follow up on this --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Which could include U.S., UK, perhaps other member of the P5.
Q And just to follow up on the timing issue, why it's being announced at this particular hour? It's very, very late in Britain. It's late in the day here on a Friday. Why on a Friday, why this time of night?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It just worked out that way.
Q What do you mean by political --
Q Yes, my question was just to be very, very clear -- does the administration believe that Libya was paying attention, very close attention, to what has happened in Iraq, and has decided, we better own up to what we've got? Is that what we're looking at here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I can't imagine that Iraq went unnoticed by the Libyan leadership.
Q So other countries -- other countries might decide to do the same thing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We hope that other countries will. We hope that other countries will take advantage of this opportunity, will pursue cooperative disarmament.
Q Could I follow on that? Did any Libyan official say that, or is that the interpretation that you're making? Did anyone from Libya say, we've watched Iraq, we've watched this policy, and we're making this move in response to the choice that you've given us? Or is that the way you interpret it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know because I wasn't involved in the technical discussions. I did not hear that, personally.
Q Can I just follow up on whether -- you wouldn't answer David's question about whether the designs came from other countries. Can you say whether there were political discussions or any political pressure being brought to bear on other countries related to this commitment by Libya? Any countries who may have provided designs or may have aided and abetted their development?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: These discussions have been limited to the U.S., U.K., and Libyan channels. They have not expanded beyond that.
Q Is there anybody else complicit in the development of Libya's program, besides Libya?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to get into that.
Q You're not saying no to that, you're just saying you don't want to say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm just saying I'm not going to comment on it.
Q You said that the Libyans admitted cooperating with North Korea to produce missiles. Is this new information, and what is the significance of it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we have long assessed that Libyan -- Libya has received assistance from North Korea, both in the form of complete missiles and technology cooperation. We learned much more about that -- the nature of that cooperation.
Q Could I just ask, did Libya ask explicitly for the lifting of economic sanctions? I apologize if you covered this, I've been jumping back and forth. But has there been any discussion explicitly of sanctions being lifted in exchange for their cooperation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there has been no specific discussion about lifting sanctions or any other specific benefits. There has been a clear message, and the President reinforced that today in his statement, that there is a prospect for improved relations between the United States and Libya. And more generally, there is the prospect, if Libya fulfills its commitments, for Libya to become a member in good standing of the international community.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 6:30 P.M. EST
|Email this page to a friend|