New era of improved relations begins between Libya and US
The son of Libya's leader Muammar Qadhafi announced on Monday (August 22) that the United States would be opening an embassy in Tripoli within a matter of days, and that Libya would soon open its embassy in Washington, after being closed for nearly 24 years. He added that by the end of the year, Libya would be removed from the US's list of states sponsoring terrorism, which it has been on since 1979.
The statement was made by Saif Al Islam Qadhafi during a visit by US Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Lugar's trip was the highest profile US visit to Libya since ties began to improve between the two countries. The US State Department gave no immediate response to the announcement.
Relations between the US and Libya have been strained several years after Muammar Qadhafi came to power in 1969. US sanctions against Libya, which began in 1986, have cost the country more than $30 billion. Last year, the US opened a liaison office in Tripoli and began normalizing trade and investment relations with Libya. In September, it decided to end US sanctions against the country.
US and Libyan relations were not always as strained as they have been in recent decades. In 1951, the US supported the UN resolution providing for Libyan independence, and the two countries had normal diplomatic and economic relations. However, relations strained with increased support of the USSR on the part of Libya in the 1980s, when tensions peaked.
In August 1981, two Libyan jets fired on American aircrafts over the Mediterranean, US planes in turn shot down a Libyan aircraft.
In 1986, former US President Ronald Reagan ordered a ground strike on the Libyan capital of Tripoli. Qadhafi's adopted daughter was killed in the attack and two of his sons injured.
The attack was supposedly in retaliation for what the US intelligence believed to be Libyan involvement in a Berlin disco bombing which left several Americans dead.
The bombs which attacked Tripoli were not completely accurate and resulted in the injury of around 30 civilians. During the attack, France's embassy was also hit. Both France and Spain denied US planes permission to refuel or enter their airspace prior to the attack.
Following the cessation of Libya's nuclear program in 2003, US President Bush signed an Executive Order ending economic sanctions imposed under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Libya also accepted that same year responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, in Scotland, and agreed to pay $2.7 billion compensation to families of the victims.
The removal of US sanctions on Libya is expected to accelerate US investment in Libya's oil industry, Libya's main source of revenue.
Renewed trade agreements between the two countries will include importing Libyan oil to the US. Currently, many American companies are actively seeking investment opportunities in Libya.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)