WASHINGTON -- The Libyan government has accredited a US diplomat who is on temporary duty there to monitor its efforts to eliminate unconventional weapons, the State Department said yesterday.
The diplomat is the first to be accredited by Libya since relations were severed more than 20 years ago.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US diplomat currently in Libya is attached to the Belgian Embassy, which has been handling US interests in Libya since relations were severed late in the Carter administration.
Boucher expressed optimism about the possibility that exchanges of diplomats with Libya will become routine. "We're going to have people in Tripoli on a regular and ongoing basis, and I expect that sooner or later, probably sooner, the Libyans will have diplomats in Washington," he said.
US diplomats have been traveling to Libya for the past several weeks to monitor efforts to eliminate the weapons. In another sign of Libya's strengthening ties with the West, Britain said yesterday that Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to meet soon with Libya's leader, Moammar Khadafy. No date has been set, but that meeting would be a significant step in bringing the North African state -- branded a sponsor of terrorism by the United States -- back into the international fold.
The announcement was made after Blair met with the Libyan foreign minister in London, the highest-level contact between the countries in more than 20 years. Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam of Libya said during a news conference in London yesterday that "Americans came to Libya to work inside the Belgian Embassy, and Libyans also will go to work [in Washington] in the interests section of Libya." An interests section is a small diplomatic mission used for contacts between countries that do not have formal relations.Boucher said the administration is prepared to show good faith toward Libya as it keeps its promise to eliminate its unconventional weapons. At his London news conference, Shalqam seemed to go further than Boucher in his assessment of US-Libyan ties.
"We had problems with Britain, we solved them, and we have built the political-diplomatic relations, the same with America," Shalqam said.