President Bush said Monday he is maintaining sanctions against Libya, but he holds open the possibility of lifting them if Tripoli dismantles its weapons of mass destruction. VOA's Greg LaMotte spoke with political analysts in Libya and senior Arab officials to find out how the president's decision will be viewed in the region.
Libyan analysts and senior Arab officials are saying President Bush's decision to maintain sanctions against Tripoli was not unexpected.
Milud Mehadki, a professor of international law at el-Fatah University in Tripoli, says the warming of U.S.-Libyan relations is just beginning.
Mr. Mehadki says he was not expecting the United States to lift the sanctions against Libya because he says Tripoli only recently announced its decision to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. He adds that both sides still have some political differences that will have to be resolved before full diplomatic relations can be restored.
Mr. Mehadki says he would not expect the Libyan government to be disappointed by Washington's decision to keep sanctions in place, but it would expect the sanctions not to be renewed in the future.
The spokesman for the 22-member Arab League, Hossam Zaki, says Arab governments fully understand Washington's reluctance to lift the sanctions against Tripoli. But, he says, it will be critical for the United States to recognize the importance of Libya's disclosure of its possession of weapons of mass destruction and its intent to destroy them.
"The recent history of relations between the United States and Libya was one of mistrust," he said. "So, it is appropriate in the diplomatic theater to be cautious and to take time and so on. However, if Libya came up with such a huge step as to disclose its own WMDs, I think it is also wise to reciprocate such a move and to show to the Libyans that they did not go this extra mile in vein."
President Bush indicated Monday that as Libya takes tangible steps to address U.S. concerns, Washington would respond in kind. The president also held out Libya as a model for other nations, and said countries that give up on weapons of mass destruction will, in his words, find an open path to better relations with the United States.
U.S. sanctions against Libya date back to the early 1980s. In 1986, Washington slapped a full trade and travel embargo on Libya, citing Libya's alleged involvement in terrorist attacks the previous year.