Scientists from Britain and America visited the chemical weapons facility as it was being built in August 2006.
Nine months later Prime Minister Tony Blair met Col Gaddafi in Libya and set in motion the eventual release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset el-Megrahi.
The cable, a copy of which was leaked to the WikiLeaks website and seen by The Daily Telegraph, detailed a visit by the scientists to a military facility in Tajura, on the outskirts of Tripoli.
The communique reports: “US and UK experts were both told that a lab under construction at the facility would be for chemical weapons defensive purposes.”
The experts told their hosts that Libya “might have to declare it to the OPCW [Office for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons]” which monitors stockpiles.
Dozens of confidential and secret cables sent in recent years by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to the State Department describe a softer and gentler Libya that Americans following the bloody crisis there now would have a hard time recognizing. Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saif al Islam, who’s become the most vehement defender of his father’s bloody onslaughts against protesters that triggered the civil war, is portrayed as a human rights advocate and reformer on the losing end of a battle with his harder line brother, Muatassim, Moammar Gadhafi’s national security adviser.
Musa Kusa, the former foreign minister who recently defected to Britain, is called a “useful” and “powerful interlocutor” who seeks closer ties with the U.S. But there is no mention of his suspected roles in patronizing international terrorist groups, the 1988 midair bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 190 Americans or the 1989 downing of a plane in Africa that killed the wife of a U.S. ambassador.
The cables, part of a cache of 251,287 sensitive U.S. diplomatic communications that the WikiLeaks website first began publishing in November and that it recently passed to McClatchy, also describe the problems encountered by U.S. officials charged with trying to foster military, trade and counterterrorism cooperation with Libya.
Taken as a whole, the cables lift the veil on quiet but persistent efforts by the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama to end Gadhafi’s decades of isolation and enlist his cooperation in fighting terrorism and resolving regional conflicts. But in light of current events, they also raise questions about whether U.S. officials were so focused on that mission that they were blind to the ruthlessness with which the regime would crush any challenge to its power.