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US to Normalize Ties With Libya

The United States has decided to restore normal diplomatic relations with Libya for the first time in a quarter of a century, and will remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement the actions were being taken because of Libya's commitment to renounce terrorism and cooperate in the global war on terror.

The announcement culminates a process that began a few years ago, when Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to dismantle his nuclear weapons program. President Bush lifted most sanctions against Libya in 2004.

The State Department's coordinator for Counterterrorism, Henry Crumpton, says Libya is making valuable contributions to the security of the United States.

"This is not only about Libya not supporting terrorist groups. It is about their cooperation with us and with other partners in this global fight. The cooperation in intelligence is strong and getting stronger," he said. "They have made direct and important contributions to our national security. They have worked with us to track operatives and networks of terrorist groups throughout the region, some leading into Iraq."

The United States imposed sanctions on Libya in 1986, blaming Tripoli for the bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman.

Two Libyan intelligence agents were also indicted and found guilty of involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 that was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

Libya turned over those agents for trial, and agreed to pay compensation to families of victims.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, says he hopes the change in U.S. relations with Libya will send a message to other nations.

"Today's announcement demonstrates that, when countries make a decision to adhere to international norms of behavior, they will reap concrete benefits," noted Welch. "Libya serves as an important model, as we push for changes in policy by other countries, such as Iran and North Korea."

Welch says the United States remains concerned about human rights issues in Libya, specifically the case of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death on charges of infecting children with the virus that causes AIDS. Libya's Supreme Court later overturned the death sentence and ordered a retrial.

"The steps we announce today don't eliminate our concerns over other aspects of Libya's behavior," he added. "Instead, these steps will enable us to engage with the Libyans more effectively on all issues. In particular, we continue to call upon Libya to improve its human rights record, and to address in good faith cases pending in U.S. courts with regard to its terrorist activities in the 1980s."

Welch says the United States will soon upgrade its liaison office in Tripoli to a full embassy.