US warns Libya against revoking permits for American oil firms
The United States warned Libya Tuesday, September 4, against revoking permits of US oil companies banned from operating there, responding to a threat from Tripoli that firms risk losing their licenses if they do not return within the year.
The State Department said making good on the threat would hurt chances for any rapprochement with the United States, the desire for which was most recently expressed by Libyan Foreign Minister Muhammad Abdul Rahman Shalgam. "We expect that Libya will respect the equities of US companies in Libya," said department spokeswoman Eliza Koch.
"Prejudicing the interests of US companies in Libya would make it more difficult to develop the kind of relationship with the United States that Foreign Minister Shalgam says he wants," she said.
On a visit to Italy this week, Shalgam was widely quoted as saying US oil firms, now banned by US law from doing business in Libya, could lose previously- awarded licenses if they did not resume operations within a year.
"Libya wants American firms to resume their activities in Libya's oil fields but we are giving them one year to return. After that they will be forced to leave because of US economic sanctions against Libya," Shalgam was quoted as saying after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero.
Ruggiero was reported as saying Libyan leader Muamar Kadhafi sought normal relations with the United States. Koch noted that in August, US President George W. Bush had extended for five years 1996 sanctions curbing US and other foreign investment in the petroleum and gas industries of Libya and Iran.
At the time, Bush said better US-Libyan relations could only be considered if Libya complied with various UN resolutions, Koch said. The United States considers Libya a "rogue state" that supports international terrorism and develops weapons of mass destruction.
Its diplomatic relations with Tripoli are also frozen over US contentions Libya has yet to take full responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people, nor has it adequately compensated the families of victims.
The sanctions allow the US government to penalize businesses with more than $20 million invested annually in either Iran's or Libya's energy sector, much to the chagrin of the European Union, which considers the sanctions too harsh and warn the United States could face WTO action as a result. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)