For the first time in 20 years: British minister holds talks in Libya
Britain takes a major step on Tuesday towards rebuilding diplomatic relations with Libya, with the first official visit in two decades to this North African country it branded for years a terrorist pariah.
Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to send a government minister to Libya for the first time since 1983, to try to secure Col. Moammar Gadhafi's help in the war on terrorism, the British Foreign Office said Saturday.
Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien is expected to urge Gaddafi to speed up his country's rehabilitation by renouncing militant links and cooperating with efforts to tackle terror and curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction, Reuters reported. Additionally, he will review U.N. demands that Libya accept liability for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing - for which a Libyan man was jailed last year - but has warned against hopes of a breakthrough during his landmark mission.
"A Libya which cooperates fully with the international community, including on terrorism, is very much in our interests," O'Brien said. "Our judgment is that...we are more likely to achieve this by encouragement rather than isolation." "My message to the Libyan leadership is that we want to see further progress on the outstanding issues between us on terrorism and on weapons of mass destruction," he added, noting some unspecified progress after four years of contacts.
O'Brien's mission follows a "hardheaded assessment that Libya is turning away from international terrorism" that was shared by the United States, a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AP. "We've decided Gaddafi no longer wants to be involved in international terrorism," O'Brien said.
Diplomatic relations with Libya, broken after a policewoman was gunned down in 1984 by shots apparently coming from inside Libya's London embassy, were restored in 1999.
O'Brien is projected to raise the subject of the 1984 killing of police constable Yvonne Fletcher, which is still under investigation, and the question of compensation for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland. (Albawaba.com)
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