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US Raises Prospect of Lifting Libya Sanctions - 2003-12-22

The United States Monday raised the prospect of lifting sanctions against Libya. But the State Department said that will depend on additional steps by the Moammar Gadhafi government beyond its renunciation late last week of weapons of mass destruction.

There are several layers of U.S. sanctions against Libya, some of them dating back more than two decades, imposed because of its past support for terrorism and its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs.

While the Libyan announcement that it would dismantle the weapons did not produce an immediate lifting of U.S. penalties, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday the Bush administration is ready to be responsive as Libya continues to deal with the issues that originally prompted the sanctions. "There are two or three different kinds of economic sanctions and restrictions that we have on Libya. Each of those would have to be looked at because each has a slightly-different basis. But as I said, as Libya's policy changes, as Libya's behavior changes, as Libya's circumstances change, we'll be willing to look at those things and at some point we may be in a position to make some changes," he said.

Officials here indicate that the ban on Libyan travel by U.S. citizens, in place since 1981, may be among the first sanctions lifted, if the safety of Americans visiting that country can be assured to the satisfaction of the U.S. administration.

A month ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell renewed the travel ban for another year. But unlike past extensions, Mr. Powell said the restriction would be reviewed every three months.

Libya remains on the State Department's list of state supporters of terrorism, though U.S. officials say it apparently ended active involvement in acts of terrorism several years ago.

Mr. Boucher said U.S. concerns currently focus on "residual contacts" Libya may have with terrorist groups or organizations aiding insurgencies in the region.

United Nations terrorism sanctions, suspended in 1995, were completely lifted in September after Libya formally took responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a U.S. Pan Am jetliner over Scotland and began to pay compensation.