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U.S. Takes Possession of Libyan Nuclear Equipment


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said it took possession on Tuesday of an estimated 55,000 pounds of equipment and documents related to Libya's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including centrifuge parts used to enrich uranium.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said a transport plane containing the sensitive equipment left Tripoli on Monday night and arrived on Tuesday morning at an airport outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

The nuclear components were expected to go to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Energy (news - web sites)'s largest science and energy laboratory. The White House would only say that they were taken to a "secure facility" in the state.

McClellan said the shipment was a sign of "real progress" by Libya in carrying out an agreement with the United States and Britain to dismantle its banned-weapons programs.

The transport plane was carrying 55,000 pounds of equipment, including "critical materials related to Libya's nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile capabilities." McClellan told reporters.

"These materials include both sensitive documentation and equipment" -- including centrifuge parts used to enrich uranium as well as ballistic missile guidance sets for longer-range missiles which Libya has voluntarily agreed to eliminate.

McClellan said another plane left Libya last week with the "most sensitive documentation associated with the Libyan nuclear weapons program."

He said that destruction of Libya's unfilled chemical munitions has also already begun.

"While these shipments are only the beginning of the elimination of Libya's weapons, these shipments as well as the close cooperation on the ground in Libya reflect real progress in Libya meeting its commitments," McClellan said.

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