- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell met yesterday with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam, the highest-level meeting between the two countries in more than three decades of estrangement. But Mr. Powell gave no sign that Libya will be taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism soon.

Although President Bush lifted most trade sanctions against the North African state on Monday, the arms embargo cannot be eased until Libya is removed from the State Department blacklist.

“Don’t expect anything to change imminently on the terrorism list,” a senior State Department official said.

“We have a process we are working through and moving on, and we need to discuss it with Congress in detail,” he added.

“That process,” the official said, “is nowhere near the end.”

In a more positive vein, Mr. Powell praised Libya’s decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction.

“Libya’s decision to abandon pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the Libyan leadership’s public emphasis on WMD as source of insecurity rather than security is a positive step and sets a very positive example,” the senior official said Mr. Powell told his Libyan counterpart.

“[Mr. Powell] made clear that we want to build on this,” the official said, adding that the resolution of the Lockerbie bombing, for which a former Libyan intelligence agent was convicted, was also important.

After yesterday’s meeting in New York, U.S. officials said the United States still has serious concerns about Libya’s behavior and its longtime links with international terrorism.

The officials cited reports that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi ordered the assassination of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

A second senior U.S. official said that Mr. Powell and Mr. Shalgam spent most of their time discussing the followup steps Libya should take after having given up its WMD programs in December.

Another subject discussed was the payments to families of victims of Pan Am 103.

“We want to make sure that the families get the appropriate compensation,” the first official said.

The European Union decided to lift its own arms embargo and other economic sanctions.

After secret negotiations with the United States and Britain, Libya announced in December a surprising change of heart in its relations with the West.

Since then, it has given up its weapons of mass destruction programs and has begun paying compensation to victims of the December 1988 Pan Am flight bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, traveled to Tripoli in March, the highest-level visit by a U.S. official since 1969.

Mr. Burns returned in June to open a U.S. liaison office, in effect re-establishing U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya.

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