Envoy Gives Al-Qaddafi Letter From Bush in Highest-Level Meeting in Libya in Two Decades

In the highest-level meeting between Libya (search) and the United States in decades, a U.S. envoy gave Moammar al-Qaddafi (search) a letter from President Bush commending Libya's progress in eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

The letter delivered by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns (search) to al-Qaddafi covered other international issues as well, Libya's Jamahiriya news agency said Wednesday.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said Bush used the correspondence to welcome Libya's steps to "repudiate weapons of mass destruction."

Bush told al-Qaddafi that his actions on weapons "allow us to look forward to continued improvements in our bilateral relations," Adam Ereli said.

Burns met with al-Qaddafi and devlivered the letter on Tuesday, the first day of his two-day visit. Jamahiriya reported that the envoy left the country on Wednesday.

In December, al-Qaddafi agreed to dismantle Libya's nuclear program under American, British and United Nations supervision.

Ereli, asked in Washington about al-Qaddafi 's continued U.S. status as state sponsor of terrorism, said Libya "has curtailed support for international terrorism but continues to maintain contact with some past terrorist clients."

Ereli said Burns told al-Qaddafi the United States welcomes Libya's decision to invite Amnesty International to visit Libya and to release a prominent opposition figure.

The State Department, in a statement released Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, said Burns' talks with al-Qaddafi were "very constructive." Burns is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Libya since 1980.

The talks reflected "the gradual, step-by-step normalization in our bilateral relationship that has been made possible by Libya's historic steps to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction ... and to adhere to its renunciation of terrorism," the State Department said.

The United States has no diplomatic relations with Libya, a nation it lists as a sponsor of terrorism. Burns and al-Qaddafi discussed plans to establish a U.S. liaison office in Tripoli and the normalization of trade and investment, the U.S. statement said.

In addition to the nuclear dismantling, Libya last year accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and agreed to compensate families of the 270 victims. That decision led the U.N. Security Council to abolish the world body's sanctions against the country.

The United States responded by lifting a 23-year ban on Americans traveling to Libya and giving American companies preliminary permission to resume business with Libya. A number of American lawmakers also have visited Libya in the past two months.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that a number of issues with Libya still had to be cleared up, including terrorism and human rights.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected in Libya on Thursday.