U.S. Will Restore Diplomatic Links With the Libyans
By JOEL BRINKLEY
Published: May 16, 2006
WASHINGTON, May 15 — The Bush administration announced Monday that it would
re-establish full diplomatic ties with Libya because Libya had abandoned its
nuclear and other unconventional weapons programs and helped in the campaign
The decision ends more than 25 years of hostility while sending a strong
signal to Iran and North Korea to follow suit.
Along with the normalization of relations and the announced intention to
open a new embassy in Tripoli, the administration removed Libya from the
list of nations that are state sponsors of terrorism. The United States had
reaffirmed Libya's place on that list as recently as March.
The announcements were a result of Libya's surprise decision in 2003 to
renounce terrorism. At the time, senior American officials said they
believed that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, had taken that
step because he was chastened by the American invasion of Iraq. Since then,
Libya has also destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles and dismantled a
secret nuclear weapons program.
"Libya is an important model as nations around the world press for changes
in behavior by the Iranian and North Korean regimes," Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice said. Hers was just one of several similar statements on
Monday from senior officials who worked hard to turn Libya's change in
behavior into a lesson for Iran as a resolution on Iran's nuclear
development program remains stalled in the United Nations Security Council.
So far, however, Iran has ridiculed Libya for its reconciliation with the
West. But on Monday, Libya accepted the news enthusiastically and even
promised to cooperate with the United States in at least one area in which
it is ill equipped to offer help.
"We encourage America on the path of cooperation and we hope we will
cooperate together through cultural debate to spread democracy around the
world together," said Mustapha Zaidi, who leads Libya's Revolutionary
Committees — an apparatus of Colonel Qaddafi's iron-fisted control of the
The United States withdrew its ambassador from Libya in 1972 after Colonel
Qaddafi renounced agreements with the West and repeatedly inveighed against
the United States in speeches and public statements.
After a mob sacked and burned the American Embassy in 1979, the United
States cut off relations. But the relationship did not reach its nadir until
1986, when the Reagan administration accused Libya of ordering the bombing
of a German discothèque that killed three people. In response, the United
States bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi.
The most notorious of Libya's actions was the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am
Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. Since then,
Libya has accepted responsibility, turned over two suspects and paid
families of victims more than $2 billion. Another payment of roughly $700
million is due now.
Reactions from family members and others affected by the bombing were mixed.
The State Department notified them of the decision in an e-mail on Monday
Susan Cohen of Cape May Courthouse, N.J., lost her only child in the plane
crash. "Qaddafi has triumphed," she said. "This is all done for oil; that's
all they care about."
In 2004, however, relatives of 230 victims signed a letter to President
Bush, urging that sanctions be lifted. The lifting unblocked funds for the
settlement. Libya is a major oil-producing state and a member of OPEC, but
David Welch, assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, insisted:
"This decision is not undertaken because Libya has oil. This decision is
undertaken because they've addressed our national security concerns."
While lifting sanctions on Libya, the United States on Monday listed
Venezuela as a country that is not cooperating on terrorism. The State
Department said the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, had given oratorical
support to Iran and to the Iraqi insurgency and had provided aid to
insurgents involved in drug trafficking in Colombia.
"Nobody is saying that Venezuela is actively sponsoring terrorism," said a
State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity under
department rules. "But Venezuela has clearly shown a lack of interest in
working with us in combating it."
The listing of Venezuela means that the United States cannot sell it
military equipment, but the officials said such sales are negligible now.
For decades, Libya had been among the half-dozen countries that the United
States routinely listed as state sponsors of terrorism, along with Iran,
North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Sudan. In the latest terrorism report,
published last month, the State Department noted that Libya had made
Henry Crumpton, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism,
said in an interview that one development that helped lead to the decision
was Libya's "assistance in identifying some of the terrorist networks going
"They have been volunteering information; we've had a pretty dynamic
discussion" over the last year, he said.
The United States opened an "interests section" in Libya two years ago,
giving Washington a small diplomatic presence. Additional steps in 2004
opened Libya to American businesses, including energy companies.
Matthew L. Wald and Steven R. Weisman contributed reporting for this