If the secret collaboration pact sealed last week by the Libyan ruler Muammer Ghaddafi and North Korea’s ceremonial head of state Kim-Jung Nan on a four-day visit to Tripoli goes through, Libya will be the first African state with a nuclear device.
This information, reaching US intelligence over the weekend, may prompt Washington to reshuffle its strategic priorities in the Middle East and Africa, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military and intelligence sources. It means that Libya could have a nuclear weapon by 2004, beating another radical Muslim nation, Iran, to the nuclear draw; the United States and Israel believe that Tehran will go nuclear in 2005.
Washington was not taken in by Ghaddafi’s charm offensive towards the West, including his offer of compensation for the families of the Pan Am 103 victims of the terrorist bombers who blew the airliner up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. They were aware that, behind his smiling front, the Libyan ruler was engaged in a cynical, tough anti-American policy aimed at turning his country into the premier power in Africa, while secretly playing ball with South African president Mbeki and Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. But the discovery that Libya would have nuclear weapons so soon has caught Washington off-balance.
After Tripoli, the North Korean dignitary proceeded to Damascus for business that is bound to further heighten the acrimony between Washington and Pyongyang. As previously reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly, Kim-Jung met secretly with Iranian and Iraqi representatives in the Syrian capital earlier this month. We now reveal some of the issues they discussed:
Iran – Muhamed Hashem Shahroudi, head of the Iranian judiciary, explored North Korea’s willingness to take Russia’s place in providing technology, engineers and technicians to finish the Bushehr nuclear center, should Vladimir Putin call off Russia’s nuclear collaboration with Tehran altogether. At the moment Russian activity at Bushehr has slowed down. The Iranians suspect Putin will allow the nuclear reactor’s construction to be completed and then stall its activation.
Shahroudi represented Iran’s spiritual leader Khamenei, who officiates as supreme commander of the armed forces.
The two sides also raised the possibility of a secret deal on the Libyan pattern for collaboration in developing nuclear arms. The subject will be taken further when an Iranian delegation visits Pyongyang in early August. Meanwhile, they agreed that North Korea would broaden its assistance for developing Iran’s Shehab Nos. 4, No. 5, and 5B missiles, all of which are based on North Korean No-Dong and Tape’o Dong missiles. North Korea will also supply more precise guidance systems for the Shihab-3 missiles, which, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly has reported, Iran has begun to mass-produce.
Iraq – Deputy Iraqi president Izzat Ibrahim led the group of officers talking to the North Korean visitors. It was decided that North Korea would sell Iraq app. 35 ground to ground missiles of two types: 22-25 No- Dong missiles of 900-mile range and 10-12 Tape’o Dong two-stage missiles with a range of 1,300 miles.
The two delegations dealt at length with two key issues: 1. The terms of Baghdad’s payment for the merchandise; and 2. How it will be transported to Iraq.
Regarding 2., we learn that the missiles will be shipped in disassembled parts by a route running through Uzbekistan, Belarus, Ukraine and Bulgaria under the supervision of Syrian shipping firms.