A son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi met senior Bush administration officials Tuesday in another sign of improved U.S.-Libyan relations. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi sees Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Saif al-Islam Gadhafi holds no official position in the Libyan government, but he has been a diplomatic trouble-shooter and heads a family charitable foundation.
His high-level talks in Washington reflect a continued warming in a relationship that was openly hostile, until Libya renounced terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
The son of the Libyan leader met Tuesday with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch, who brokered a recent agreement settling remaining compensation claims from 1980s acts of terrorism attributed to Libya.
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the younger Gadhafi will also see White House officials and members of Congress before his Thursday meeting with Rice.
The claims settlement last month cleared the final obstacle to the full normalization of relations, though the Gadhafi government remains under criticism for human rights abuses and political curbs.
At a news briefing, Spokesman McCormack said human rights issues are a standard item on the U.S. agenda, including during Rice's Libya visit in September. He said the Bush administration has decided that in the case of Libya, dialogue is the best way to bring about change:
"The relationship with Libya has come a long way," he said. "But it has a long, long way to go, specifically in terms of freedoms, universally-recognized freedoms in Libya. And we're going to continue to work on those issues. I know its come up, various individuals have said, well you've given up a lot, having the secretary visit Libya, in terms of establishing normal diplomatic relations. Well, Libya has done much of what we have we asked it to do to change the relationship," said McCormack.
In an unprecedented gesture Monday, President Bush telephoned Moammar Gadhafi to express satisfaction over the implementation of the accord clearing away terrorism-related compensation claims.
Libya on October 31 paid $1.5 billion into a fund for families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a U.S. Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland and other acts of terrorism for which Libya accepted responsibility.
Another $300 million was raised from private sources to settle Libyan court claims stemming from retaliatory U.S. airstrikes.
A White House spokesman said the two leaders believe the agreement should help bring a painful chapter in the two countries' history closer to closure.
He said the United States will continue to work on the relationship with the aim of having dialogue that encompasses all subjects including human rights, reform, and the fight against terrorism.