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Rice Meets Libyan Leader Gadhafi in Tripoli


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says U.S.-Libyan relations are "off to a good start" after she met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during a landmark visit to Libya's capital, Tripoli.

Rice was the first top U.S. diplomat to travel to Libya in 55 years.

After talks with Mr. Gadhafi Friday, Rice told reporters that the two sides discussed cooperation in trade, culture and education. Libya is a major oil exporter.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam told the same news conference that the parties also talked about counter-terrorism and the situations in Iraq and Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

Rice said her visit shows that Washington does not have permanent enemies, but she says the U.S. and Libya still have a long way to go to advance their relations.

The United States bombed Mr. Gadhafi's compound in 1986 in retaliation for what it said was Libya's involvement in a terrorist attack on Americans.

Rice was expected to press Mr. Gadhafi to implement a deal under which Libya agreed to settle compensation claims related to Libyan terrorist attacks in the 1980s. Critics say she should have waited until Libya pays into a compensation fund before making the trip.

The deal signed last month also requires Washington to pay compensation for the 1986 U.S. air strikes on Tripoli and the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The U.S. and Libya broke off relations in the 1970s. Relations began to improve in 2003 when Libya accepted responsibility for acts of terrorism and agreed to end its weapons of mass destruction program.

Rice is on a North Africa tour that also takes her to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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