U.S. to restore relations with Libya
From Elise Labott
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi attends an African leaders' summit in Sudan in January.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is restoring full diplomatic relations with Libya and removing the North African country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after 27 years, the State Department announced Monday.
"We are taking these actions in recognition of Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism," said a statement from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
She also referred to "the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the United States and other members of the international community in response to common global threats faced by the civilized world since September 11, 2001."
The removal from the terrorism list is expected to take place after a 45-day waiting period.
However, Libya will immediately be removed from an annual list of countries that do not cooperate with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, according to Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch.
The move is likely to have a major impact on oil markets and could even bring down fuel prices, CNN's David Ensor reports.
Oil companies have been lobbying Congress to do business in Libya, but Welch denied that the United States decided to restore ties to ease the rising cost of gasoline prices.
"This decision was not undertaken because Libya has oil, this decision was undertaken because they've addressed our national security concerns," he said.
He noted that "Libya remains a problematic place to do business."
Embassy to be established
Once full diplomatic ties are established, an ambassador to Libya will replace the current chargé d'affaires, and an embassy will be established in Tripoli, replacing the current liaison office.
"Today's announcements are tangible results that flow from the historic decisions taken by Libya's leadership in 2003 to renounce terrorism and to abandon its weapons of mass destruction programs," Rice said.
Libya's chief diplomat in Washington, Ali Aujali, hailed the decision, saying, "We've been waiting for this day for quite some time."
"This is a great day in the Libyan-American relations," the chief of the Libyan liaison office said in an interview with CNN. "I've been here in Washington since September 2004. Both parties worked very hard to achieve what we have achieved."
The United States put Libya on its list of state sponsors of terrorism in 1979, and later severed ties with the country.
Libya was implicated in several terrorist attacks in the 1980s, most notably the 1988 bombing of Pam Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
After decades of thumbing his nose at the West, which made him an international pariah, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made an abrupt about-face after the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, renouncing support for terrorism and agreeing to give up Libya's missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
In early 2004, Libya handed over its nuclear components and documents related to the country's WMD program, which were taken to a U.S. facility in Tennessee.
Later that year, the United States ended a 18-year trade embargo against Libya and lifted a ban on travel there by Americans.
After meeting with Rice last September, Libyan Foreign Minister Abd al-Rahman Shalgam pledged that his country would "cooperate in good faith" in providing additional information about the Lockerbie bombing.
A Libyan intelligence agent was convicted of planting the bomb, and Gadhafi's government agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims' families.
Welch said the United States remains "concerned about Libya's human rights record" and hopes to use its restored diplomatic ties to address those concerns.
"We do believe that this decision actually strengthens our ability to press our freedom agenda in Libya," he said. "Our desire to do so is fully known by the Libyan government."
Human rights groups have expressed concern over the retrial of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
After they were convicted in May 2004 -- which was later overturned by the Libyan supreme court in December -- President Bush said their lives should be spared and they should be freed.
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