United States to Restore Diplomatic Relations with Libya
NOAH ADAMS, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams. Coming up, blogs buzzing with rumors of a Karl Rove indictment.
But first, the U.S. said today it will restore full diplomatic relations with the nation of Libya. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch made that announcement.
Mr. DAVID WELCH (Assistant Secretary of State): We are omitting Libya from the annual list of countries not fully cooperating with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
ADAMS: Normal ties between Libya and the U.S. have been non-existent since 1980. And for several years Libya was on the list of countries the U.S. considered to be state sponsors of terrorism.
And joining us now to talk about this is NPR's State Department correspondent Michele Keleman. Michele, this has been in the works, we understand, for a couple of years, right?
MICHELE KELEMAN reporting:
Yes, that's right. It was back in 2003. And this was after some quiet diplomacy led by the U.S. and Britain. Libya announced that it would stop pursuing weapons of mass destruction. And ever since then, we've seen the U.S. move, and as it promised it would, in this step-by-step way to get to normal relations.
The U.S., you know, had a huge list of sanctions on Libya, as did the U.N., by the way. And the Bush Administration started lifting those sanctions, the ones on the oil sector, a couple of years ago to allow some business to resume.
Today's announcement is a culmination of this approach. And the administration says it has notified Congress and, after a waiting period, will open an Embassy in Tripoli. And it's going to take Libya off this list of state sponsors of terrorism.
ADAMS: Now, what happens with the worldwide oil situation if you bring Libya back?
KELEMAN: Well, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near East David Welch said this was not about the oil business. In fact, he said business ties have been slow to resume, even though the U.S. eased those sanctions a couple of years ago.
He said this was taken because the international community made these clear demands on Libya, and they had to do with terrorism, and that Libya responded and came into line.
And by the way, a counter-terrorism expert at the State Department said that Libya has been cooperating with the U.S. in the region to go after al-Qaida-affiliated groups. So they've said that they've had a lot of cooperation with Libya on this.
Now, of course one of the big things they hope is that this is going to send a message to Iran.
ADAMS: Right. Right. You know, they used to say that sooner or later the bomb throwers wind up having tea in Buckingham Palace. And you look at Muammar Qadhafi here: once one of the most despised men in the world, he was responsible for the Lockerbie bombing back in 1988. How did he remake himself?
KELEMAN: In fact -- and Ronald Reagan once called him the mad dog of the Middle East. So there was a lot of redirect going back and forth with this.
David Welch didn't want to talk about the personality issues today. He said I deal with a lot of mercurial people. And he just didn't want to go there. But when I asked him afterwards if we're going to see Qadhafi in town any time soon, he just sort of laughed.
He has been playing host to members of Congress a lot in recent years. His son, whom he's apparently grooming to take over, has been a key player. And I mean the big issue was that Qadhafi settled with families of the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing case.
Many of them, of course, were unhappy to see this move today. But this was the way that Qadhafi has reinvented himself.
ADAMS: NPR State Department correspondent, Michele Keleman, thank you.
KELEMAN: You're welcome, Noah.
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