Panel urges U.S. to adopt new policy toward Libya

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

A panel has urged the Bush administration to change U.S. policy toward Libya following its $2.7 billion compensation package for the families of the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

A report by a panel of experts, former U.S. State Department officials and oil executives said Libya has ended its policy of sponsoring terrorism. The group urged the administration to renew efforts to establish diplomatic relations with Tripoli, Middle East Newsline reported.

"By all indications, Libya has changed its policy on terrorism," the report, "U.S.-Libyan Relations: Toward Cautious Reengagement," and sponsored by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said. "The new strategy should be designed to advance several other important U.S. interests simultaneously.

These include promoting energy security through diversity of supply, containing Libyan regional ambitions that run counter to U.S. interests while encouraging Libya to play a constructive role in regional conflicts, developing economic relations, fostering human rights, encouraging political reform in Libya and successfully graduating Libya out of the 'rogue state' category."

Last week, Libya signed an agreement to compensate the families of the 270 victims of the explosion of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Libya has also agreed to take responsibility for the attack. The panel said U.S. policy toward Libya has become "outdated and inappropriate." The experts urged the administration to test Libya's willingness to abandon terrorism. The council provides recommendations on U.S. foreign policy issues.

But the Atlantic Council did not call on the State Department to remove Libya from the list of terrorist sponsors, a condition stipulated in the Libyan compensation accord. On Monday, the Bush administration said it would not lift U.S. sanctions until Tripoli responds to Washington's concerns regarding Libya's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.

"United States sanctions will remain in place because we still have a number of serious concerns when it comes to Libya, most notably, their continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their continued participation in regional conflicts in Africa that have been very destructive and unhelpful," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"Libya continues to have a poor human rights record. So there are a number of concerns we still have."

The report said U.S. sanctions on Libya have prevented American companies from being awarded contracts to explore and develop the energy resources of the North African country. The council urged Washington to resume trade with Tripoli so U.S. energy companies can compete for major contracts in Libya.

But the report acknowledges that Libya has increased efforts to acquire WMD since the suspension of United Nations sanctions in 1999. The council recommends that the administration press Tripoli to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention and open suspected WMD sites for international inspection.

"The principal objective for a new strategy should be countering international terrorism," the report said. "Another priority U.S. objective should be preventing Libya from obtaining weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles."

The council also recommended that Libya agree to the enhanced safeguards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, pledge to follow the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and abide by the standards of the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The United States should launch a security dialogue with Libya that addresses the WMD issue, the report said. In addition, the United States must seek the cooperation of the international community to deny WMD and missile expertise and technology to Tripoli and ban testing of prohibited weapons or missiles.

"It also needs to deter Libyan efforts to acquire proscribed technology," the report said. "This could include working with other UN Security Council members to establish a series of red lines that, if crossed by Libya, would trigger comprehensive sanctions or direct intervention."

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