U.S., Libya Sign Science and Technology Partnerships Accord

With a portrait of Thomas Jefferson behind him, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Muhammad Shalqam participates in a bill signing ceremony at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2007. Despite unresolved terrorism and human rights concerns, the United States took another step toward ending decades of hostility with the north African nation Thursday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with the Libyan foreign minister in the highest-level contact between the two countries in Washington in 35 years.
With a portrait of Thomas Jefferson behind him, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Muhammad Shalqam participates in a bill signing ceremony at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2007. Despite unresolved terrorism and human rights concerns, the United States took another step toward ending decades of hostility with the north African nation Thursday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks with the Libyan foreign minister in the highest-level contact between the two countries in Washington in 35 years. (Susan Walsh - AP)
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 3, 2008; 5:48 PM

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam held talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today and later signed a U.S.-Libyan accord on science and technology partnerships.

"I hope this event will help us to go ahead," Rahman said. "Thanks for God, we start with education and culture. We don't speak any more about war or frustration or terrorism."

During his Washington visit, Shalqam is also scheduled to meet with the secretaries of homeland security and energy as well as the deputy defense secretary.

In remarks after the signing, Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky talked about the "robust" new collaboration between Washington and Tripoli on issues ranging from earthquake research to disease control.

"We hope this agreement that we sign today will give our citizens even greater opportunities and incentives to work together" on other issues such as solar power and nanotechnology.

At lunch yesterday, Shalqam virtually gushed about the importance of Libyan students getting an American education and U.S. companies doing business in Libya.

"Relations between the United States and Libya are very important to us. . . . We want a new friendship," he said, trying to reassure Americans that Tripoli does not back the Islamic militancy of other governments and groups now targeting U.S. interests in the Middle East. "Our interpretation of Islamic heritage is completely different from the others who don't accept the philosophy of coexistence."

The visit, in which Shalqam and his wife received a personal tour of the White House, an official escort on Capitol Hill and a luncheon with executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Raytheon, marks a dramatic reversal of decades of U.S. policy.

After the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya in response to Libya's attack on West Berlin's La Belle disco, President Ronald Reagan described leader Moammar Gaddafi as "an enemy of the United States," adding: "His record of subversion and aggression . . . is well documented and well known. He has ordered the murder of fellow Libyans in countless countries. He has sanctioned acts of terror in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as the Western Hemisphere." Reagan said he was sure most Libyans were "ashamed" of a man who "made their country a synonym for barbarism."

But yesterday, the White House praised the same regime led by the same man. "Libya made an historic decision to stop its weapons of mass destruction program, and we want to work on ways to improve our relations, although there is still more work to be done," said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "We have concerns about human rights and other issues. Visits with senior U.S. officials are designed to move relations in the right direction."

Not all the old issues have been resolved, however, which limited Shalqam's White House visit to a sightseeing tour -- without any meetings with White House or National Security Council staff members, U.S. officials said. The Libyan delegation was hoping for a meeting with Vice President Cheney.

Libya has yet to pay $2 million per victim for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, for which two of Libyan intelligence agents were convicted. Families have been paid $8 million per victim, but the final installment was contingent on Libya being removed by a certain date from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. When the date passed, Libya withdrew the money.


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