U.S., Libya Neither Friends Nor Enemies, Gaddafi Says Before Rice's Visit

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

CAIRO, Sept. 1 -- Libya and the United States are no longer enemies but are not quite friends, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi said Monday, days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to arrive there.

The two countries signed a pact last month committing to compensation for families of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and an attack on a Berlin disco in 1986. Libyans who were killed in 1986 when U.S. warplanes bombed Tripoli and Benghazi are also covered by the payout. Libyan officials said at least 40 people were killed in the U.S. strikes.

The accord opened the way for Rice's visit this week, the first by a U.S. secretary of state since 1953.

"We have closed the U.S. dossier,'' Gaddafi said Monday in the Libyan coastal city of Benghazi, in a speech commemorating the Sept. 1, 1969, coup that brought him to power.

"Now the relations are that of friendship -- well, it is neither friendship nor enmity," Gaddafi said. "Let them leave us alone, and we would leave them alone.''

"It is not necessary for us to be friends with America. What is necessary is that relations are free of aggression, terrorism, wars and explosions," Gaddafi said, in remarks carried live on Libyan state television.

He added later: "We do not have an interest in being hostile to a country like America, but we do not accept being subservient to America.''

The United States accused Libya in the bombing over Lockerbie and in other Cold War-era armed attacks on Americans. President Ronald Reagan once called Gaddafi the "mad dog of the Middle East."

Gaddafi said Monday that the United States had accused Libyans "of killing hundreds of Americans." Americans like to play the victim, Gaddafi said, and it was Reagan and Reagan's British ally, then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who "were almost insane," he said.

Libya is estimated to have the largest oil reserves in Africa, and roughly 3.5 percent of the world's total reserves. Gaddafi's 2003 renunciation of the country's programs for weapons of mass destruction led to the lifting of international sanctions on Libya. Foreign companies are now rushing to develop Libya's oil and gas fields.

Italy this weekend became the latest nation to patch up relations with Libya. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, visiting Libya, announced Saturday that Italy will give it $200 million annually for 25 years to make up for wrongs during Italy's 1911-1943 occupation of Libya. Berlusconi also bowed before a statue of a Libyan killed fighting Italy.

Gaddafi said Monday that Italy is "a friendly state" and will have priority in oil and gas deals.

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