Now friends, Libyan, U.S. diplomats talk fighting terror
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published September 24, 2006
NEW YORK - Top diplomats from the United States and Libya celebrated their newfound friendship Saturday, but disputes remain from more than two decades of hostility.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cited Libya as a model for other nations after its decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction and engage the world, but she has repeatedly put off a trip to Tripoli to inaugurate a U.S. Embassy. The United States quietly upgraded its small diplomatic office in Tripoli to an embassy this summer, but has held no formal ceremony to mark the occasion.
Instead, Rice saw her Libyan counterpart on the sidelines of the U.N. opening session.
Rice and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurahman Shalgam discussed cooperation in fighting terror, a turnabout for the North African nation that the U.S. long called a terror sponsor.
The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, reported that Rice also emphasized the United States' desire to resolve outstanding legal issues related to the 1988 bombing of Pam Am flight 103.
The Pan Am issue is one of two major sticking points between Washington and Tripoli four months after the United States announced it would establish full diplomatic ties with Libya and remove it from the State Department's list of state terror sponsors.
It was not clear whether Rice and Shalgam aired the other outstanding issue: Libya's treatment of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting Libyan children with the virus that causes AIDS.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi surprised the world in late 2003 when he swore off terrorism and announced plans to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs. Libya was eager to end the international isolation and economic hardships from United Nations and U.S. sanctions in the Pan Am case, and Gadhafi concluded the weapons programs were best used as a bargaining chip.
The diplomatic thaw began almost immediately, with the opening of a U.S. diplomatic office in Libya in 2004.
The U.S. had not had formal diplomatic relations with Libya since 1980.
The Bush administration went ahead with plans to establish normal diplomatic relations with Libya despite opposition from families of Americans killed in the Pan Am bombing.
Libya was held responsible for the airliner bombing, which claimed 270 lives, most of them American.
Families of victims say they are still owed $2-million apiece as part of a settlement that Libya made with the United States.
[Last modified September 24, 2006, 01:43:53]
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