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US renews ties with Libya despite alleged murder plot

WASHINGTON -- The United States resumed direct diplomatic ties with Libya yesterday after 24 years, even as the Bush administration pursued reports that Moammar Khadafy had taken part in a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's crown prince.

The announcement was made in Tripoli by Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns, after talks with Khadafy, and also at the State Department.

Burns inaugurated a new US liaison office in Tripoli in what was the latest move by the Bush administration to reciprocate for Khadafy's promise in December to dismantle his chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

The assistant secretary said he and J. Cofer Black, who heads the State Department's office to counter terrorism, had discussed with Khadafy ''recent public allegations regarding Libya and Saudi Arabia."

At the State Department, spokesman Adam Ereli said, ''I think we made clear our concerns about the story" concerning an alleged plot against Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Burns said the two sides ''held detailed discussions on Libya's commitment to support the global war on terrorism, to repudiate the use of violence for political purposes, and to implement its pledge to cease all support for terrorism."

Libya is one of seven nations annually branded as sponsors of terror by the department.

On other subjects, however, Burns said the US delegation expressed appreciation for Libya's humanitarian assistance to civil war victims in Darfur, Sudan, and recalled its decision to accept responsibility for the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Allegations of a plot against Abdullah were mentioned separately by Abduraham Alamoudi, an American Muslim leader jailed in Alexandria, Va., on federal charges of having illegal financial dealings with Libya, and by Colonel Mohamed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer in Saudi custody.

Ereli said yesterday that if the reports proved true, ''it would call into question continued development of relations with Libya."

Asked what Khadafy told the US officials about the plot reports, Ereli said, ''We do not have enough to make a conclusive judgment, I think, one way or the other."

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