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Friday, August 15, 2008

U.S.-Libya deal clears way for normalized ties

WASHINGTON — Libya and the United States have removed what could be the last obstacle toward military cooperation.

The two countries have signed a comprehensive claims settlement agreement meant to complete Libyan compensation for attacks against the United States attributed to Tripoli in the 1980s. Officials said Washington would also agree to examine Libyan claims for compensation for a U.S. air strike that killed the adopted daughter of Libyan leader Moammar Khaddafy and others in 1986.

"The agreement also will address Libyan claims arising from previous U.S. military actions," the State Department said on Aug. 14.

Officials said the two countries would establish a fund to compensate victims of attacks. They said the United States has not pledged to contribute to the fund, expected to reach $1 billion.

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"The agreement is being pursued on a purely humanitarian basis and does not constitute an admission of fault by either party," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said. "Rather, pursuant to the agreement, an international Humanitarian Settlement Fund will be established in Libya to collect the necessary resources for the claims on both sides."

Officials said the agreement would clear the way for normalization of relations between Tripoli and Washington. They said this could include U.S. military and security exports to Libya, who has sought advanced systems to protect its huge desert border as well as military modernization.

The accord was signed on Aug. 14 in Tripoli by visiting U.S. Assistant of Secretary of State David Welch and Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Fituri. Neither official disclosed the amount of compensation.

"This agreement signed today is designed to resolve the last major historical issue that has stood in the way of a more normal relationship between our two countries," Welch said.

On Aug. 4, President George Bush signed into law legislation that would facilitate Libyan compensation of the victims of a 1988 airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. The law would also allow American victims of a 1986 bombing of a German disco to sue Libya. After Tripoli was deemed as having compensated the victims of these two attacks, the North African country would be granted immunity from any additional U.S. claims.

Officials said the signing of the compensation claims agreement would pave the way for funding by Congress of the construction of a U.S. embassy in Tripoli and Senate approval of an American ambassador. They said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would prepare to visit Tripoli as early as October 2008.

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