The White House is lifting a ban on U.S. travel to Libya to reward the country for agreeing to give up weapons of mass destruction. U.S. businesses that operated in Libya before the sanctions are free to return.

A White House statement says lifting the travel ban recognizes Libya's concrete steps to repudiate weapons of mass destruction and to build the foundation for economic growth.

The Bush administration says it will approach relations with Libya on a careful, step-by-step basis and will continuously evaluate remaining sanctions as cooperation continues.

Ties between the countries have been improving since a surprise announcement in December that Libya was giving up its drive for nuclear weapons, after nine months of secret talks with the United States and Britain. The White House statement says that deal has made America safer and the world more peaceful.

During the past two months, the Bush administration statement says, Libya has taken significant steps toward disclosing and dismantling weapons of mass destruction programs as well as the missile systems to deliver them.

While more remains to be done, the White House says Libya's actions have been serious, credible, and consistent with Colonel Muammar Gadhafi's public declaration that Libya seeks to play a role in building a new world free from weapons of mass destruction and all forms of terrorism.

For the first time in 23 years, American citizens will be free to travel to Libya for tourism, academic research and family visits. U.S. companies that had holdings in Libya before the sanctions are now free to negotiate the terms of their re-entry.

The White House invited Libya to establish a so-called interests section in Washington to coordinate weapons destruction and lay the foundation for more extensive diplomatic relations in the future.

The statement says a team of medical specialists from the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development will arrive in Tripoli on Saturday to consult on the delivery of health care and disease prevention. Washington is also inviting Libya to send an official delegation to the United States to discuss future educational opportunities for Libyan students.

The widely-anticipated move to lift the travel ban was delayed when Libya's prime minister said the country was not taking responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a commercial airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. He said the country agreed to pay nearly $3 billion in compensation only to buy peace and end years of sanctions.

Libya retracted that statement and reaffirmed a message sent to the United Nations last year that accepted responsibility for government officials involved in the bombing. A former Libyan secret service agent was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the attack.

U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Sean McCormack says the retraction shows that Libya's earlier statement of responsibility still stands.