WASHINGTON – The United States lifted a long-standing ban on travel to Libya on Thursday after Muammar al-Qaddafi's (search) government affirmed that it was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 (search) in 1988.
The White House announcement lifted travel curbs that have been in place for 23 years against Libya, a country which the United States had long branded a sponsor of state terrorism.
The lifting of the ban came after the Jamahiriya news agency disavowed assertions by the Libyan prime minister that Libya had not acknowledged it blew the jetliner out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland (search) in 1988, killing 270 people, including 181 Americans.
The statement, which appeared at midday on Libya's web site, said Libya had helped bring two suspects to justice "and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials."
Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) already has signed documents to rescind restrictions on the use of American passports for travel to Libya, National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said. Powell was expected to discuss the action during congressional testimony on Thursday.
The lifting of the travel ban was one of several steps being taken, McCormack said. He said other actions would be announced later.
The United States has been moving toward improved relations with Tripoli since al-Qaddafi renounced the development of weapons of mass destruction and allowed weapons inspectors to verify that his country was abandoning nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
McCormack said Libya's retraction had clarified that its statement last August, accepting responsibility for the bombing, still stands.
"In recognition of Libya's concrete steps to repudiate (weapons of mass destruction) and to build the foundation for Libya's economic growth and reintegration with the international community, the United States will take steps to encourage Libya to continue on this path including rescinding restrictions on the use of American passports for travel to Libya as well as other steps," he said.