U.S. May Move to Improve Ties to Libya

The Bush administration dangled the prospect of improved economic relations with Libya (search) on Monday as it praised Moammar Gadhafi's (search) country for trying to rejoin the international community.

The State Department also will be looking at deleting Libya from its list of seven countries branded as sponsors of terrorism.

Gadhafi, long scorned as an unpredictable and implacable enemy, announced Friday that Libya would scrap efforts to build weapons of mass destruction.

Following up, Libya has agreed to submit to weapons inspectors from the United Nations (search) and to provide details of programs to develop nuclear and chemical weapons that were more advanced than the United States and Britain had thought.

Specialists from the two countries went to Libya in the fall for what State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called information-gathering to try to determine the programs' scope.

"I'm sure a variety of other ways will be found to make sure that whatever disclosures Libya makes, that there is a follow-up to identify the full extent of those programs," Boucher said.

U.S. economic sanctions have imposed a heavy burden on Libya's economic life for two decades, and the State Department last month extended a 22-year ban on the use of U.S. passports for travel to the North African desert country.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said in November, however, that the travel restriction would be reviewed every three months.

On Monday, Boucher said Libya appeared "to be in the process of trying to rejoin the community of nations."

As a result, the spokesman said, the State Department will take another look at the passports ban and "at various aspects of U.S. policy."

Referring also to Libya's designation as a sponsor of terrorism, Boucher said, "Each of these issues would be looked at on their merits," and "We're willing to look at them as circumstances change."

"At some point," he said, "we may be in a position to make some changes."

Others on the State Department's terrorist-state list are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.