Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi (search) was "statesmanlike and courageous" to give up his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (search) said Saturday.

Straw said Friday's surprise announcement came after months of careful diplomacy, and indicated the United States would lift its sanctions against the North African state.

In the decision, Libya (search) agreed to disclose all its weapons of mass destruction and related programs and to open the country to international weapons inspectors to oversee their elimination.

"You judge people on their conduct and, knowing as I do the course of these negotiations, I believe that it is both very statesmanlike and courageous, the steps that he and his government have taken," Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Britain restored diplomatic relations with Libya in 1999 after a 15-year hiatus and has been involved in negotiations to end the country's international isolation. The United States, which retained its 17-year embargo, has Libya on its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

"The United States is looking forward to an entirely new approach and relationship with Libya," Straw said. On sanctions, he said: "I would expect them to be lifted. I can't say exactly when."