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US Decides to Restore Relations with Libya 


After 25 years, the United States has decided to restore normal diplomatic relations with Libya and remove it from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. The process began in 2003 when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to dismantle his nuclear weapons program and cease acts of terrorism. Libya is now cooperating in the war on terrorism and has acknowledged its responsibility in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. U.S. Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welsh says he hopes the change in U.S. relations with Libya will send a message to other nations such as Iran and North Korea.

David Goldwyn, former official in the Clinton administration and president of the consulting firm Goldwyn International Strategies, is executive director of the U.S.-Libya Business Association. Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Encounter program, he calls the U.S. decision a good one and “long overdue” because Libya’s behavior “merits removal” from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. However, Hafed Al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American who is a manager at the World Bank (and notes that he speaks not for the Bank but only for himself), calls it a “practical” move - but not the “right” -move. He says it undermines the U.S. position on pushing for democracy throughout the Arab world and suggests that Washington is willing to accept the status quo so long as states are “willing to capitulate” on weapons of mass destruction.

But David Goldwyn disagrees, saying that the United States cannot use the terrorism list “as the litmus test for all behavior” and punish countries because they are “not sufficiently democratic for us.” He suggests that Washington needs to get countries to change their behavior “without regime change.” Hafed Al-Ghwell says he agrees with Mr. Goldwyn that Libya may have taken a first step, but the United States needs to press harder on human rights abuses – and publicly.

David Goldwyn suggests that the government in Tripoli does not expect a “flood of U.S. investment” in Libya as a result of diplomatic ties. But he is confident that the new relationship will promote a transformational change from a command to a market economy. Unfortunately, Hafed Al-Ghwell says, Tripoli is spinning the news as a “victory for Libyan policy,” suggesting that Washington was the one that changed its position. He also worries that the Arab world will view U.S. policy on promoting democracy as having changed and add to Washington’s “credibility difficulties.” Furthermore, he doubts that it will serve as a model for states such as Iran or North Korea. David Goldwyn counters that, although it’s “not a perfect model,” it sets a useful example for countries such as Syria.

For full audio of the program Encounter click here.

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