LONDON ø Libya is preparing for defense cooperation talks with the
United States, leading to a visit by President Bush early next year.
Libyan officials said the United States has agreed to review Tripoli's
defense requirements in wake of an agreement by Col. Moammar Khaddafy to
eliminate his nation's medium-range missile and weapons of mass destruction
arsenal. The officials said the two countries plan to begin formal talks on
Libya's defense and security requirements over the next few months.
The officials said Britain and the United States will lift sanctions
from Libya by April 2004. They said this would pave the way for a visit by
U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to Tripoli
during the first half of next year.
"The United States has promised to protect us from any attack,"
Khaddafy's son, Seif Al Islam, said in an interview with the London-based
A-Sharq Al Awsat daily on Dec. 24.
Al Islam, who is being groomed to succeed his father as Libya's ruler,
said Tripoli and Washington have held defense cooperation talks, including
the prospect of joint exercises, Middle East Newsline reported. But he denied immediate plans to renew such
In the interview, Al Islam said Libya will end the development program
of a medium-range missile that can fly 800 kilometers. He said that in 1986
Tripoli canceled a plan to attack a U.S. military base in an island off
Greece. The plan was to retaliate for a U.S. air strike earlier that year
that he said killed more than 200 Libyans.
U.S. industry sources said Libya has discussed a range of projects with
at least one American defense contractor. The sources said Tripoli has
expressed interest in upgrading and replacing many of the aging U.S.
military platforms procured in the 1970s. They include aircraft, helicopters
Libyan officials, in an assertion echoed by Al Islam, said the Bush
administration planned to send a U.S. military team to Tripoli to review
Libya's defense needs. Al Islam said such a visit would take place soon.
"There will be a joint military and security cooperation agreement with
the United States," Al Islam said.