- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

Restoring Libyan ties

The United States and Libya are discussing reopening embassies in each other’s capital 25 years after Washington closed its diplomatic mission in Tripoli and two years after Libya agreed to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he held talks with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi over the weekend at the end of a two-day visit to the North African nation, which is still officially on the U.S. list of terrorist countries.

Their discussion included ways to upgrade the level of diplomatic representations to ambassadorial level and reopening embassies. Both countries have opened “liaison offices.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack yesterday said Libya will be rewarded a step at a time with improved relations but declined to speculate on when embassies would reopen.

He cited the need for the Libyan dictator to improve his human rights record and to continue in his cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism.

“If they continue to make progress along the pathway that we have laid out, we again will meet their acts of good faith in return,” Mr. McCormack said.

Mr. Lugar told reporters in Tripoli on Saturday that Col. Gadhafi invited President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Libya.

“I conveyed to the Libyan leader the very best wishes of our president, and he likewise conveyed and would like to have the visit of Secretary Rice and the visit of our president, and I will convey those words back to George Bush,” the Indiana Republican said.

Shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Col. Gadhafi announced that he would dismantle his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs and invite officials from the United Nations to inspect the facilities that produced the weapons. He also agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims of the Pan Am airliner blown up by Libyan agents over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Mr. Lugar cited Col. Gadhafi’s cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism and the “major and progressive” improvement in relations between the two nations.

He said he discussed Libya’s human rights record and the prospect of removing the country from the list of nations that support terrorism.

President Carter closed the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli in May 1980, five months after a Libyan mob attacked the diplomatic compound, and expelled four Libyan diplomats from Washington.

President Reagan ordered the closure of the Libyan Embassy in the U.S. in May 1981. A year later, he imposed sanctions on the import of Libyan oil and the export of high-technology equipment. The sanctions, expanded in 1986 to ban all U.S. commercial transactions, has cost Libya about $30 billion in lost business, the Libyan government said.

Jordan optimistic

The Jordanian Embassy yesterday cited weekend tourism figures to show that last week’s rocket attack on U.S. warships at the popular Red Sea port of Aqaba had no effect on foreign visitors.

The embassy’s Web site (www.jordanembassyus.org) posted an article from the Jordan Times that reported hotels were totally booked in Aqaba with more than 1,000 tourists from Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Jordan is warning American citizens to be extra cautious, avoid crowds and stay away from Aqaba for at least the rest of the week.

“American government personnel have been instructed to travel within the country only as absolutely necessary and to stay away from Aqaba and sites frequented by large numbers of foreigners for the coming seven days,” the U.S. Embassy said Friday, after terrorists fired three rockets at two naval vessels, missing their targets.

No American sailors were injured, but one rocket killed a Jordanian soldier in a nearby military warehouse.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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