Slain Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi tried to obtain a nuclear bomb with the help of Kazakhstan, according to a former top official of the ex-Soviet republic.

In early 1992 Qadhafi sent a letter to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev urging him not to give up nuclear weapons left over from the Soviet Union, revealed Kazakhstan’s former Foreign Minister Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who currently serves as a Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Qadhafi “called on Kazakhstan to keep the nuclear arsenals on its territory as ‘the first Islamic nuclear bomb’ and promised to provide billions of dollars for their maintenance”, Mr. Tokayev said on Thursday addressing an international forum in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in December 1991 Kazakhstan was left with 1,410 strategic warheads deployed on several different systems, including SS-18 ICBMs and airborne cruise missiles.

Mr. Tokayev said the “generous offer” from the leader of an oil-rich nation could “appear tempting for an irresponsible politician” at a time when Kazakhstan struggled with dire economic consequences of the Soviet collapse.

However, Mr. Nazarbayev, being a “true statesman,” dismissed “opportunistic gains” in favour of “strategic considerations.”

In May 1992 Kazakhstan, as well as the other two former Soviet states, Ukraine and Belarus, which had thousands of nuclear weapons stationed on their territories, agreed to surrender them under the Lisbon Protocol to the 1991 Soviet-American Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start). All nuclear arsenals were transferred to Russia by the end of 1996.