The Washington Times - November 21, 2008, 01:37PM

It’s official: the Senate has finally voted, and Gene Cretz will soon become the first U.S. ambassador to Libya in more than three decades.

“We are very pleased,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. “We are anxious to get him out there.”

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Relations between the United States and Libya have improved remarkably in the last few years, but there was one issue that wasn’t resolved until recently – full compensation to the families of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, put a hold on Mr. Cretz’s nomination last year, but he lifted it after Libya made its final payment into a $1.5 billion fund to settle claims by the families of American victims of Libyan-linked terrorist attacks during the 1980s.

Mr. Cretz, a career diplomat, was nominated by President Bush in July 2007. Washington’s last ambassador to Tripoli left in 1972.

The question is, will President-elect Barack Obama keep Mr. Cretz in his post after he takes office in January? The custom is that all political appointees submit their resignations on Jan. 20.

“It is up to the next administration to decide upon which of those ambassadors’ resignations they decide to accept and which ones they ask to stay on,” Mr. McCormack said.

– Nicholas Kralev, diplomatic correspondent, The Washington Times