Libyan leader Gaddafi risked nuclear disaster: Wikileaks

Washington, Dec 4 (ANI): Secret cables released by whistleblower website 'WikiLeaks' have revealed that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was prepared to leave highly enriched uranium potentially unprotected and at risk of hijack in a fit of pique aimed at the UN.

The incident was kept secret by U.S. diplomats who feared the shoddy security at Libya's Tajoura nuclear facility, near Tripoli, risked the theft of the 5.2 kilograms (11.5 pounds) of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the leaked documents have revealed.

The Guardian quoted the leaked secret diplomatic cables as saying that seven casks of spent nuclear fuel were due to be flown to Russia for disposal on a specialized transport plane in November 2009 as part of Gaddafi's promise to abandon Libya's program of weapons of mass destruction.

However, instead, Libya refused permission and the Russian plane took off without its cargo, leaving the casks on the runway tarmac at Tajoura overseen by a solitary guard.

The reason for the sudden change of plan appeared to be that Gaddafi had taken offence at his treatment during his visit to New York to address the United Nations two months earlier, the paper said.

US ambassador Gene Cretz said in a secret cable back to Washington from Tripoli that: "Department of energy experts are deeply concerned by the safety and security risks. According to the DOE experts we have one month to resolve the situation before the safety and security concerns become a crisis."

"The temperature of the HEU (highly enriched uranium) fuel, which is radioactive, could reach such a level to cause cracking on the casks and release of radioactive nuclear material ... Security concerns alone dictate that we must employ all of our resources to find a timely solution to this problem and to keep any mention of it out of the press," he had said.

The crisis was resolved after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a personal message for Gaddafi assuring him of the U.S.'s commitment to its relationship with Libya, the paper added.

The message was positively received and security was stepped up around the nuclear material before a Russian plane took off from Tripoli with the flasks on December 21. (ANI)

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