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United States Will Re-Establish Full Diplomatic Ties With Libya

By Joel Brinkley


The Bush administration announced on Monday that it would re-establish full diplomatic ties with Libya because it had abandoned its nuclear and other unconventional weapons programs and helped in the campaign against terror. The decision ends more than 25 years of hostility while sending a strong signal to Iran and North Korea to follow suit.

Along with normalization of relations and the announced intention to open a new embassy in Tripoli, the administration removed Libya from the list of nations that are state sponsors of terrorism. The United States had reaffirmed Libya’s place on that list as recently as March.

The announcements on Monday were the result of Libya’s surprise decision in 2003 to renounce terror. At the time, senior American officials said they believed Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan leader, had taken that step because he was chastened by the American invasion of Iraq a few months earlier. Since then, Libya has also destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles and dismantled a secret nuclear weapons program.

“Libya is an important model as nations around the world press for changes in behavior by the Iranian and North Korean regimes,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hers was just one of several similar statements on Monday from senior officials who worked hard to turn Libya’s change in behavior into a lesson for Iran as a resolution on Iran’s nuclear development program remains stalled in the U.N. Security Council.

Thus far, however, Iran has openly ridiculed Libya for its rapprochement with the West. But on Monday, Libya accepted the news enthusiastically and even promised to cooperate with the United States in at least one area in which it is ill-equipped to offer help.

“We encourage America on the path of cooperation and we hope we will cooperate together through cultural debate to spread democracy around the world together,” said Mustapha Zaidi, who leads Libya’s Revolutionary Committees — an apparatus of Gaddafi’s iron-handed control of the country.