Washington: A top official in the Bush administration on Sunday defended US engagement in years past with Libya`s Muammar Gaddafi, saying doing so got weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of a "megalomaniac”.
Washington, which had isolated Tripoli for decades in the aftermath of terror attacks on Americans blamed on Gaddafi’s regime, launched a tentative rapprochement with Libya nearly a decade ago which eventually led to normalisation of diplomatic relations after Gaddafi renounced nuclear weapons.
"It was a very difficult decision," Bush`s national security advisor Stephen Hadley told CNN talk show `State of the Union`.
"But what we got for being willing to resume relations with Libya was that he gave up his weapons of mass destruction, his nuclear program, his chemical weapon program."
In late 2003, Gaddafi renounced all attempts to develop a non-conventional arsenal, clearing the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States in May 2006.
Gaddafi, Hadley said, essentially "got out of the terror business" and provided USD 1.5 billion compensation to families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Scotland that killed 270 people, and for a Berlin disco bombing that killed two Americans and hurt 50 others in 1986.
The deal burnished Gaddafi`s reputation at the time, as the West hailed his transformational move in which he pledged major reforms.
It allowed the regime to sign billions of dollars in business deals in Europe, which also lifted an arms embargo against Libya, and receive huge amounts of American aid.
Hadley insisted that getting Gaddafi "out of the weapons of mass destruction business was a good deal," despite the current violence, in which thousands are believed to have been killed in a raging uprising and US President Barack Obama demanding Gaddafi leave power.
"I think the wisdom of what we did is shown by the fact that, think about if this megalomaniac now had chemical weapons in his possession and had the option of using those against the Libyan people?"
Gaddafi, who has vowed a fight to the death, ordered his supporters last month to "capture the rats" and crush the uprising against his rule.
Former Gaddafi loyalists have said they had no doubt he would unleash hellish violence against his own people to stay in power.
"This is a man who has shown that there`s only one choice for Libyan people: either I rule you or I kill you," Libya`s former immigration minister Ali Errishi, who resigned shortly after the uprising began nearly three weeks ago, told CNN on Sunday.