Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said yesterday that Iran should be left to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy programme, and that his own nation was close to making an atomic weapon before it voluntarily shut down its secret project in 2003.

Gaddafi's comments were made in an address at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt. Libya and Iran are members of the 118- nation organisation.

He said the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, should judge whether Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons , as the US, other Western countries and Israel claim. Iran denies the charges and insists its nuclear programme is for power generation.

Source: Associated Press