Saturday, September 6, 2008

Condi Rice in Tripoli

How many ways can you spell his name? Is it Gaddafi - Quadaffi ?
How does he spell it? - BK

Time Magazine - By Scott Macleod - Rice in Libya: A Rare Mideast Success,8599,1839269,00.html

There haven't been too many opportunities to say this, but the Bush Administration scored an unqualified success in the Middle East on Friday. In the highest-level U.S. visit to Libya since John Foster Dulles held talks with King Idris Senussi in 1953, Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice arrived in Tripoli and met with the country's revolutionary leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The talks mark the final step in a remarkable rapprochement that offers an example of how violent disputes in the troubled region can be settled through diplomacy rather than war.

It's fair to say that for an earlier generation of U.S. officials, Gaddafi was the Saddam Hussein of their Middle East. He was an Arab leader who supported terrorist groups, sought weapons of mass destruction, and thumbed his nose at the Washington. President Reagan dubbed Gaddafi the "mad dog of the Middle East" and cut relations with Libya in response to Gaddafi's involvement in terrorism. After Libyans bombed a Berlin disco in 1986 killing two U.S. servicemen, Reagan ordered an air attack on Tripoli with the apparent aim of taking out Gaddafi. The bombing raid on the Libyan leader's residence — the very same location where he hosted Rice on Friday evening — killed his adopted daughter. Two years later, in what some observers viewed as a revenge attack, Libyan officials were involved in the mid-flight bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, that killed 270 people.

I went to Libya after the U.S. bombed Libya in 1986, but Gaddafi's handlers wouldn't let the foreign press anywhere near him. We were told he'd give a public speech in the main square in Tripoli, but he ended up just doing it on Libyan television. He was so haggard that his appearance gave the impression that he had been drugged. Exactly 20 years later, after the resumption of relations with the U.S. was well under way, I returned to Libya and was quickly ushered into Gaddafi's tent. He spent much of our interview wanting to discuss the Internet. Last year, the U.S. sent an ambassador to Tripoli for the first time in three decades.

How did this unlikely, extraordinary rapprochement come about? A combination of factors played a role, including international sanctions, the fall of the Soviet Union, a realignment of Arab politics and, perhaps, the Bush administration's saber-rattling against Middle East despots. Gaddafi became convinced that he needed to end his hostility to the U.S. and, to its great credit, the Bush Administration reciprocated Libya's olive branch, initially extended by Gaddafi's son, Seif, in a secret meeting at a London hotel room with agents of Britain's secret service, MI6.

Gaddafi's rehabilitation is an emotional blow to the families of Libya's terrorism victims: The large financial settlements with which they are being provided can't compensate for the irreparable loss of their loved ones. If Libya's change of direction is to become complete, Gaddafi would have to broaden political participation and end human rights abuses in his own country. An important start would be the release of Libya's top dissident, Fathi El-Jahmi, who has been imprisoned since 2004 after calling on Gaddafi to allow free speech and pursue political reform. But in a speech on Libya's national day this week, Gaddafi indicated that he would continue to follow his own agenda, not Washington's. "We do not have an interest in being hostile to a country like America but we do not accept to be subservient to America," he said.

Still, a good deal has been accomplished toward reintegrating Libya as a responsible member of the international community, and that in itself could push the regime toward better behavior at home. Libya has forsworn support for terrorism and provided the West with intelligence on terrorist groups, and it has given up its nuclear weapons program. In addition, Libya is already working side by side with the U.S. diplomatically on problems such as the strife in Darfur and Chad. With the two countries on the verge of signing a trade and investment agreement, money is beginning to pour into Libya's energy and construction sectors. More young Libyans will soon be studying in the U.S.

"This, for the United States is, I would say, a success in our foreign policy," says David Welch, Rice's assistant for the region. For a Bush administration prone to falsely trumpeting achievements in the Middle East, that's a diplomatic understatement.

Guardian UK :

Condoleezza Rice last night became the most senior US official to visit Libya in more than half a century when she arrived for a meeting with its leader, Muammar Gadafy.

The visit, which Rice described as historic, was a reward for Gadafy's strategic decision over the past seven years to distance himself from extremism and give up weapons of mass destruction, providing a positive example to Iran.

It was also designed to highlight a rare diplomatic success for the Bush administration in its final months. Washington claims the Iraq invasion is partly responsible for Gadafy's decision to surrender a nuclear programme built from components bought from the notorious Pakistani nuclear smuggler AQ Khan.

Gadafy greeted Rice at his official Bab Al Azizia residence - the fortified compound targeted by US aircraft in 1986. After a traditional Ramadan meal in a Bedouin tent, Rice said that the meeting marked a new phase in the two countries' relations.

"After many, many years, it's a very good thing that the United States and Libya are establishing a way forward," she said. "The US, I've said many times, doesn't have any permanent enemies."

The visit was kept secret until a few hours before Rice landed. It was agreed only on Wednesday after a deal was struck on a joint fund to compensate the civilian victims of a Libyan bomb attack on a Berlin disco in 1986, American air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi the same year, and the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, in which 270 were killed.

In 2001, a Libyan intelligence agent handed over by Gadafy was found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing. In 2006, Libya was removed from the US state department list of sponsors of terrorism.

The compensation issue had yet to be finally resolved when Rice landed, as Libya had not made an expected payment.

"It is a historic moment and it is one that has come after a lot of difficulty, the suffering of many people that will never be forgotten or assuaged," Rice told reporters in Lisbon.

The state department team was reportedly nervous about Rice's meeting with Gadafy, who has been unstatesmanlike in previous remarks about her. "I support my darling black African woman," Gadafy told al-Jazeera television last year. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza ... I love her very much. I admire her and I'm proud of her because she's a black woman of African origin."

The US and Libya are expected to sign a trade and investment deal. They are also negotiating a "military memorandum of understanding" on combating terrorism.,0,1798407.story

Libya deal may be model for others

U.S. looking to press more into paying for role in attacks

Washington bureau

WASHINGTON—As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Libya on Friday, lawyers and diplomats in the U.S. were paying special attention to the claims settlement agreement that cleared the way for her trip and whether it could be a model for diplomatic leverage with other countries, such as Iran.

The agreement, approved by President George W. Bush last month, created a way to resolve all remaining claims by American victims of Libyan terror. Libya is soon expected to begin paying more than $1 billion into a fund that will eventually distribute payments to the families of American victims of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing, the 1986 bombing of a disco in Berlin and several other attacks from the 1980s, as well as settle Libyan claims from U.S. airstrikes against Libya.

The administration used the outstanding claims as a diplomatic tool in its final talks with the Libyans leading up to Rice's visit, the first there by a U.S. secretary of state since 1953. It hopes that Iran and other countries that have similar issues with U.S. citizens will take notice of the settlements and see it as a way to improve relations with the U.S.

David Welch, an assistant secretary of state and the architect of the Libya agreement, said, "We would like to show that it is possible to fix these problems and to do so in a manner that is responsive to the interests of the American citizens, that is protective of our national security and that advances our other interests that are out there."

Addressing Iran almost directly, he added, "There are some states out there that, notwithstanding the pressures being put upon them, the offer of a more reasonable path forward, are choosing to defy the interests of the international community on issues like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction . . . and it's very useful to be able to say, 'Look, if you made a different choice, there is a path forward here, you can get out of this box if you behave responsibly.' "

Others face payments

Like Libya, Iran and other entities such as Cuba and the Palestinian Authority face enormous judgments in U.S. courts. Iran has been accused of sponsoring attacks that include the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and a 1997 bus bombing by Hamas in Israel. The Palestinian Authority faces hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments for such attacks as a 2002 shooting at a bar mitzvah in Israel and a 1996 drive-by shooting of two American Jewish settlers near the West Bank. The Libya example opens up the question of how these cases intersect with foreign policy.

Most of the cases were originally brought under a law that sought to impose a financial penalty on sponsors of terrorism by allowing victims and their families the ability to sue for damages in the U.S. court system. This year, a new amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act made that easier and opened the possibility of seizing hidden commercial assets for compensation if the victims win legal judgments.

Iran already faces a federal court judgment of $2.656 billion to compensate the families of the 1983 Beirut bombings, which killed 241 American servicemen. Unlike Libya, which risked billions of dollars in commercial assets in the U.S. being frozen if it did not come to an agreement with the U.S., Iran has done no business with the Americans since 1979, and has few, if any, assets left in the U.S.

That could make Iran less susceptible to diplomatic pressure, says Washington lawyer Stuart Newberger, who won a $6 billion judgment against Libya on behalf of seven American families killed in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner. That judgment, because of its size, played a role in the diplomatic negotiations over the claims settlement. "We are satisfied that the judgment had an influence on Libya coming to the table," he said. "It shows that these cases can and do make a difference."

Newberger has made the rounds of European countries to try to get them to attach Iranian commercial assets in their countries to the $400 million in judgments that he won for his clients in the U.S. in another case.

Artifacts sought

Others have tried more innovative strategies to collect damages. One case brought by five survivors of the 1997 suicide bus bomb attack in Israel staged by Hamas won a default judgment against Iran for helping to fund the militant organization. When no assets were available to fulfill the $423.5 million judgment, Rhode Island lawyer David Strachman, representing the victims' families, began pursuing collections of ancient Persian artifacts at the University of Chicago and Chicago's Field Museum, seeking to auction them off and use the proceeds to compensate the victims.

But the State Department filed a statement with the court saying that selling off artifacts to settle the judgment "may have a far-reaching impact not only on how sanctions programs are administered but, more broadly, on the conduct of the foreign relations of the United States."

Some of the holders of these artifacts wish the U.S. would get more involved in resolving the cases diplomatically, as it did with Libya.

"I wish they would just wave a magic wand," said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, home of the Persepolis tablets, which have cuneiform writing. "It does affect the U.S.' legal standing, and our moral and ethical leadership in the world. If you think about how the rest of the world will portray us if tablets get confiscated and sold, there will be all kinds of negative repercussions."

Helene Cooper, NYTimes

TRIPOLI, Libya — For the first time in more than half a century, a sitting American secretary of state is in Libya. Condoleezza Rice arrived here on Friday to meet with the man whom Ronald Reagan famously called the “mad dog of the Middle East.”

Mahmud Turkia/Agence France Presse--Getty Images

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, right, in Tripoli on Friday.

But that was then. Ms. Rice, after waiting at the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel here for an hour as the Ramadan sun set, finally got word that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was ready to receive her at his Bab al Azizia residence — the same compound bombed by American airstrikes in 1986 during the height of tensions with Libya.

Amid a swarm of cameras and reporters, she walked into the receiving room where Mr. Qaddafi, clad in a long, flowing white robe, purple and gold sash, and a green Africa brooch, stood waiting to greet her.

He didn’t shake her hand; instead, he put his hand against his heart in a gesture that North African men often use to greet women, then motioned for her to take a seat. It was a very different Libyan leader, in the eyes of Ms. Rice and the Bush administration, from the man who had bedeviled six American presidents over the past four decades.

As far as the Bush administration is concerned, the Libyan leader is rehabilitated, his country removed from the State Department’s terrorism list, his debt to the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 on its way to being paid, Libya’s stockpiles of chemical weapons destroyed and its secret nuclear weapons program dismantled.

His initial chat with Ms. Rice could not have been more pleasant. He politely inquired about her trip; Ms. Rice thanked him for his hospitality. He asked about the hurricanes; she told him America had dodged Gustav but was bracing for Hanna. And that was it for the public chit-chat, as the Libyan authorities quickly shooed the press out of the room while Ms. Rice sat, smiling broadly.

“Quite frankly, I never thought I would be visiting Libya, so it’s quite something,” she had told reporters aboard her flight to Tripoli.

She said she had thought through what she planned to say to Colonel Qaddafi, and, not mentioning him by name, added, “I look forward to listening to the leader’s worldview.”

Ms. Rice called the visit “a historic moment,” albeit “one that has come after a lot of difficulty, the suffering of many people that will never be forgotten or assuaged, a lot of Americans in particular. It is also the case that this comes out of a historic decision that Libya made to give up weapons of mass destruction and renounce terrorism.”

Although the State Department announced Ms. Rice’s trip a few days ago, details of the visit had been shrouded in so much secrecy that even as her plane left Lisbon for the three-hour flight to Libya, many on board still did not know where she would be meeting Colonel Qaddafi.

In the end they met at his compound in Tripoli. After the diplomatic niceties were dealt with, Ms. Rice and Colonel Qaddafi met one on one — though with note takers and interpreters, State Department officials said — for what had been billed as a more interesting private exchange than the usual diplomatic meetings.

After all, the Libyan leader had professed his “love” for the American secretary of state. “I support my darling black African woman,” Colonel Qaddafi told the network Al Jazeera last year. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders.”

He continued: “Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much.”

A senior administration official said that Ms. Rice planned to raise some nettlesome issues, including human rights and the final resolution of legal claims from the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, among other issues.

A Libyan dissident, Fathi al-Jahmi, remains in jail, where he has been off and on since 2002, despite repeated pleas for his release from Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, now the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee, and Bush administration officials.

Ms. Rice’s visit has been two years in the making. The Bush administration announced in 2006 that it was restoring diplomatic ties with Libya as a reward for Colonel Qaddafi’s decision in 2003 to renounce terrorism and abandon work on weapons of mass destruction, a reversal that Bush administration officials were quick to attribute to the American invasion of Iraq.

The United States withdrew its ambassador from Libya in 1972 after Colonel Qaddafi renounced agreements with the West and repeatedly inveighed against the United States in speeches and public statements.

After a mob sacked and burned the American Embassy in 1979, the United States cut off relations. But the relationship did not reach its nadir until 1986, when the Reagan administration accused Libya of ordering the bombing of a German discothèque that killed three people. In response, the United States bombed targets in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, came nearly three years later. Investigators spent years accumulating evidence that Libyan agents were involved, and in 2001, a Libyan intelligence official was found guilty of murder in the case.

On the plane to Tripoli, a reporter asked Ms. Rice whether she attributed the Libyan turnaround to diplomacy or fear that it could have followed Iraq on the United States hit list.

“Quite obviously there was a long period of isolation,” she said, then added that Libya eventually signaled it was ready to renounce terrorism. “Anytime a country makes that choice,” she said, “diplomacy should be pursued.”


Rice says Libya is about more than oil

TRIPOLI, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Washington's rapprochement with OPEC member Libya is motived by more than just the U.S. need for oil, top U.S. diplomat Condoleezza Rice said on a historic visit to Tripoli on Friday.

Rice is making the first visit to the north African country by a U.S. secretary of state since 1953, a trip U.S. officials hope will end decades of enmity and violence five years after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction program in 2003.

Referring to the possible impact of the trip on bilateral ties, Rice told reporters: "It is helpful, but this is a much broader relationship."

"It has much broader potential than just energy."

But Rice added that Libya, owner of Africa's largest oil reserves, could help in terms of the world's fuel supplies and that it was important to have reliable and multiple source of energy.

U.S. companies want to compete for contracts in a wide range of sectors in Libya, which is seeking to rebuild its economy after years of sanctions. Such sectors include agriculture, water, telecoms, transport, power generation, construction, engineering, banking and health services.

Libya's energy sector is already open to U.S. participation. but better relations, in particular the provision of more visas for U.S. executives, are expected to help deepen the U.S. role in the energy sector.

The main U.S. companies involved in Libya are Amerada Hess, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental.

The United States imported an average of 85,500 barrels per day of Libyan oil in 2006, equivalent to about seven percent of Libyan petroleum exports, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Libya's main oil customers are European countries. (Reporting by Sue Pleming, writing by William Maclean, editing by William Hardy)

AlJazeera :

Video: Inside Story - Rice visits Libya - 03 Sep 08 - Part 1 AlJazeeraEnglish

AlJazerra & Timeline:

US marks 'new phase' of Libya ties /By Amr a-Kahky

The meeting was held in the Libyan leaders compound, attacked by the US in 1986 [AFP]

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has met Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader, in what she described as "a new phase" in relations between the two countries.

Her visit marks a historic turnaround in relations between Washington and Tripoli, which have for decades viewed each other with suspicion.

"The relationship has been moving in a good direction for a number of years now and I think tonight does mark a new phase," Rice said after meeting Gaddafi.

"It is only a start, but I think, after many, many years, I think it's a very good thing that the United States and Libya are establishing a way forward."

Rice travelled to Tunisia's capital, Tunis, on Saturday following the landmark meeting with Gaddafi.

Military ties

An AFP news agency correspondent said she arrived in Tunis on Saturday - her second stop on a North African tour that will also take her to Algeria and Morocco.

The United States has key military ties with Tunisia and is also seeking to conclude a free trade accord with the Maghreb nation.

Rice, the first US top diplomat to visit Tunis since Colin Powell in 2003, was greeted at the El Aouina military base near Tunis by Abdelwaheb Abdallah, the Tunisian foreign minister.

Rice's meeting in Libya was held in Gaddafi's compound, which includes his former home, kept in ruins since it was bombed by US jets in 1986 - an attack which killed about 40 people, including one of Gaddafi's daughters.

Rice's trip to Libya is the first by a US secretary of state in 55 years. Rice is the most senior US diplomat to visit Libya since 1953.

Rice stressed that talks with Gaddafi had been wide ranging, encompassing the possibility of greater investment in Libya by American companies and increasing the number of Libyan students studying in the US.


Timeline: Libya-US relations

But the secretary of state could not avoid questions about human rights.

"Our values are different from American values," Abdelrahman Mohammed Shalgam, Libya's foreign minister, who spoke to the press alongside Rice, said. "We don't need anybody to lecture us on how to behave."

Asked about the case of Fathi el-Jahmi, who rights group Amnesty International has classified as a prisoner of conscience held in Libya, Shalgam said that el-Fathi "has been released but he is now being treated at a hospital".

"He's not under any pressure. He's never been subjected to any kind of pressure," Shalgam said.

El-Fathi was arrested by Libyan authorities in 2002. According to Amnesty, his arrest was for demanding free speech and political reform in Libya and the rights group asserts he is being held in a "a special facility ... on the outskirts of Tripoli".

Rice said that it was important to "talk about these issues in a respectful way and that is what I've done during my visit".

US-Libya relations

Washington's relations with Tripoli began to warm after Libya gave up an arms programme in 2003, but Rice had held back on visiting the country until a compensation package was signed last month to cover legal claims involving victims of US and Libyan bombings.

Ronald Regan, US president between 1981 and 1989, notably refered to Gaddafi as "mad dog".

Al Jazeera correspondent Amr al-Kahky said Libya was, for the US, "an excellent choice for oil supplies, being nearer to them than the Gulf countries.

"Libya now wants to be a modern country and develop in science, technology and education.

"The US wants to send a strong message to Iran and North Korea .. that the US has 'no permanent enemies' that it is only an enemy when it is threatened and is a friend when that is over."

Guma al-Gamaty, a writer on Libyan affairs, told Al Jazeera: "The Americans are in [this relationship] for the long term just for their strategic interests.

"This has all been done at the expense of human rights ... there are no rights in Libya and no democracy - the Americans are doing business with a dictator and it discredits them.

"Gaddafi is a ruthless, totalitarian ruler ... and he is preparing to pass his power on to his son.

"This visit says to other countries, especially in the Middle East, the US is only interested in oil and nothing else."


Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, will be the highest-ranking official to visit Libya since John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration, in 1953.

Rice's diplomatic mission on September 5 comes shortly after an agreement was concluded for both countries to pay reparations for American and Libyan citizens killed and injured during brief armed conflict in the 1980s.

The following are key events in Libyan-US relations:

1934: Italy adopts the name Libya to refer to the provinces of Cyrenia, Tripolitania and Fezzan, which it had colonised. Over the next 15 years, the territories are variously controlled by the French and administered by the British.

1943: During World War II, the British capture Mellaha Air Base near Tripoli. It is used by the US military from the spring of 1943 onwards, and subsequently renamed Wheelus Air Base. Over the next decade, various agreements are signed permitting the US continued use of the base.

1947: Italy relinquishes all claims to Libya under the allied peace treaty.

1949: The United Nations passes a resolution stating that Libya should become independent before January 1, 1952.

December 24, 1951: Libya declares independence. The country was proclaimed a constitutional and hereditary monarchy under the rule of King Idris I.

1959: Oil is discovered in Libya.

September 1, 1969: Muammar Gaddafi leads a coup to unseat the monarchy and Idris goes into exile in Egypt.

1970: The new Libyan government seeks to terminate the presence of foreign troops on its soil and asks foreign governments to withdraw; British and US military installations are closed, including the US Wheelus Air Force Base.

1972: US withdraws its last Ambassador to Libya.

February 21, 1973: Tripoli-bound Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 from Cairo is severely damaged by Israeli fighter jets over the Sinai. 110 passengers and crew are killed when the plane is forced to make an emergency landing in uneven desert terrain. The plane had become lost due to a sandstorm and inadvertently flew into Sinai's airspace, which was then controlled by Israel.

1979: An angry mob chanting pro-Iran slogans attacks and sets fire to the US embassy in Tripoli, after which the embassy was shut down. Twenty days later, the US designated Libya a state sponsor of terrorism.

1980: US declares four Libyan diplomats persona non grata and recalls its two remaining diplomats from Libya, effectively ending ties.

1981: Two Libyan fighter jets are shot down by the US air force flying over the Gulf of Sirte, which Libya had claimed as its territorial waters. The US disputed this claim.

1986: US naval aircraft participating in exercises in the Gulf of Sirte come under fire from Libyan surface-to-air missiles. Two Libyan patrol boats are sunk by US navy warplanes and a Libyan missile base in Sirte is attacked.

April 5, 1986: Libya is blamed for the April 5 bombing of La Belle discotheque in West Berlin, which was frequented by US military personnel. Three people were killed, including two US servicemen, and more than 200 people were injured, including more than 50 US service personnel. A Libyan diplomat is subsequently convicted of aiding in murder when tried in 2001, along with four other defendants, two of whom were non-national Libyan embassy employees.

April 14: Ronald Reagan, the then-US president, orders a strike on April 14. Attacks on military installations and residential areas of Tripoli and Benghazi killed and wounded dozens of people, including Gaddafi's 15-month-old adopted daughter. Gaddafi escapes injury, but two of his sons are also injured.

The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 killed 270 people
1988: 270 people are killed when Pan Am Flight 103 is bombed en route from London to New York, over Lockerbie in Scotland. Some 180 of those killed were US nationals.

1989: In an incident echoing that of 1981, two Libyan fighterjets are shot down by US naval aircraft in the Gulf of Sidra.

1992 & 1993: The UN adopts and imposes sanctions against Libya, after the country failed to cooperate with investigations into the Lockerbie bombing and the suitcase bombing of French UTA Flight 772 over Niger that killed 170 people in 1989. These included travel restrictions, an arms embargo, and financial sanctions.

1999: Libya surrenders to the UN two Libyan intelligence officers suspected of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing. The UN suspended sanctions imposed several years earlier.

2001: At the trial of two Libyans at a special court in the Netherlands under Scottish law, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is sentenced to life. The other Amin Khalifa Fhimah is found not guilty and freed. (Al Megrahi has maintained his innocence and in June 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission stated that in referring the case for appeal they were satisfied a miscarriage of justice may have occurred and that he is entitled to a second appeal against his conviction. As at September 2008, Al Megrahi's lawyers are preparing his appeal.)

March 2003: Libya is elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission. The US and human rights groups oppose this appointment.

August 2003: The UN lifted sanctions after Libya "accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials" for the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, renounced terrorism, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion compensation to the victims' families.

September: The UN Security Council votes to lift sanctions on Libya. The US and France abstain.

December: Libya announces it is dismantling its weapons of mass destruction programme.

In the same month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports there are no signs Libya had enriched uranium, a precursor to making a bomb. The IAEA said US and British assertions that Tripoli was close to developing a nuclear weapon may have been exaggerated.

February 2004: A limited US diplomatic presence is reintroduced and later upgraded to a liaison office in June. The following month, Libya opened a liaison office in Washington DC. The US lifted most of its unilateral sanctions in September.

2005: George Bush, the US president, waives some defence export restrictions to allow US companies to participate in destroying Libya's chemical weapons.

May 2006: The US restores full diplomatic ties with Tripoli as a reward for Libya dismantling of its weaponisation programme. The restoration of ties was expected to pave the way for business dealings between the two countries. The US removed Libya from the state department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism and opened an embassy in Tripoli.

March 2007: Libyan parliamentary body authorised the signing of a deal under which the US would help the country build its first-ever nuclear power plant for civilian use.

In the same month, Gaddafi boycotts an Arab League Summit in Riyadh, saying the US sets its agenda. The Libyan leader said Rice "gives orders" to Arab leaders, and they should stay at home rather than attend the summit.

John Negroponte, the US deputy secretary of state, visited Libya in 2007
April: John Negroponte, the US deputy secretary of state, visits Libya. Though he was the highest-ranking US official to visit the country in half a century, he was snubbed by Gaddafi. The Libyan leader declined to meet Negroponte, instead choosing to meet lower ranking officials.

April: Libya hosts talks on Darfur in the coastal city of Sirte, about 500km east of the capital Tripoli. UN, US, EU and African Union officials attend.

July: Bush nominates Gene Cretz as ambassador to Libya. Cretz becomes the first US ambassador to Libya in 35 years. This nomination was blocked by Democrats, who said they would invoke a Senate procedure until Libya pays compensation for terrorist attacks in the 1980s. As of September 2008, the position remains vacant.

March 2008: While attending the annual Arab League Summit, Gaddafi criticised Arab countries for doing nothing as the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi president.

May: The US and Libya begin to negotiate a deal to compensate victims of terrorist attacks blamed on Libya. The deal includes compensation for families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, and other attacks tied to Libyan agents.

The compensation settlements also aimed to provide redress to victims of the 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing in Berlin, and the 1989 suitcase bombing of a French airliner over Niger that killed 170 people.

August 14: The US and Libya conclude a comprehensive claims settlement agreement in Tripoli, which was agreed in principle in May. The conclusion of the agreement paved the way for normalisation of relations between the two nations.

September 5: According to the US state department, Rice's visit to Libya signifies a new chapter in US-Libyan bilateral relations.

Bill Kelly can be reached at

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