Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi offered the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan “billions” in the early 1990s to retain its nuclear arsenal as the Muslim world’s “first atomic weapons,” a former Kazakh foreign minister and high-ranking UN official said on Thursday.
“At the start of 1992, the [Kazakh] Foreign Ministry received through diplomatic channels a letter to the president of Kazakhstan from the leader of the Libyan revolution, Muammar Gaddafi, proposing that he keep the country’s nuclear arsenal in the capacity of, as he wrote, the first Muslim atomic bombs,” said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at an international forum in the Kazakh capital of Astana, the Tengrinews.kz news website reported.
Tokayev, who served as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister from 2003 to 2007 and is currently the director-general of the United Nations Office in Geneva, also said Gaddafi had pledged “many billions” to fund the project. Tokayev did not specify a currency.
He also said that Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had declined the offer over concerns for global “strategic order” and suggested the decision demonstrated that the country’s “national leader” possessed the “political and moral right to head a global anti-nuclear movement.”
A spokesman for Nazarbayev told RIA Novosti he would “find out” about Tokayev’s comments, but did not respond to later attempts to contact him, as of late Thursday afternoon.
The theme of Tokayev’s report at the forum was “the input of the people’s leader of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev to the assurance of international security.”
Tokayev also suggested the letter be recovered from Kazakhstan’s files.
Kazakhstan, a Central Asian, Muslim majority state, gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and gave up its nuclear arsenal of 1,410 nuclear warheads shortly after.
Gaddafi is widely believed to have pursued nuclear weapons up until 2003, when he agreed to dismantle Libya’s chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons.