Libyan Foreign Minister Says U.S. Move Serves 'Mutual Interests'

The restoration of U.S.-Libyan diplomatic relations serves the "mutual interests" of both the United States and Libya, the country's foreign minister told The Associated Press on Monday.

The U.S. State Department announced the restoration of ties Monday morning, saying it also was removing Tripoli from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism.

"It was a result of contacts and negotiations. It is not unilateral. It is a result of mutual interests, agreements and understandings," said Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Shalgham.

Asked if the U.S. decision was an incentive for Libya to further cooperate with the United States, Shalgham said: "In politics there is no such thing as a reward but there are interests."

"This will certainly open a new chapter in the relations of the two countries," he told the AP in a telephone interview. "It is a result of five years of negotiations."

The U.S. opening to Tripoli did not meet with enthusiasm among some in the opposition community.

"This doesn't help the Libyan people who are looking for international assistance to achieve their human rights," said Fayez Jibril of the Libyan National Congress.

"Col. Qaddafi will most certainly use this to tighten his hold on the Libyans who aspire for such simple things such as freedom of expression and freedom to have a constitution," Jibril said from his exile in neighboring Egypt.

CountryWatch: Libya

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice annouced the diplomatic move in a statement Monday

"We are taking these actions in recognition of Libya's continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism," She said Tripoli's cooperation in combating international terrorism has been "excellent."

The United States has not had formal diplomat relations with Libya since 1980, although a thaw in long-standing hostility enabled Washington to open a diplomatic office in Libya in 2004.

The move culminates a process that began three years ago, when Qaddafi surprised the world by agreeing to dismantle his country's weapons of mass destruction programs.

"As a direct result of those decisions we have witnessed the beginning of that country's re-emergence into the mainstream of the international community. Today marks the opening of a new era in U.S.-Libya relations that will benefit Americans and Libyans alike," Rice said.

Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said, "This is not a decision that we arrived at without carefully monitoring and assessing Libya's behavior."

Libya was held responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, which claimed 270 lives, most of them American.

"Today's announcement demonstrates that when countries make a decision top adhere to the norms of international behavior they will reap the benefits," Welch said.

The establishment of normal relations may have come sooner were it not for allegations that Qaddafi's regime was behind an attempt on the life of Saudi's Arabia's King Adbullah when he was crown prince several years ago.

Hints that a U.S. move was afoot were evident when the State Department decided to summon family members of the victims of the Pan Am 103 to Washington for a briefing next week on "U.S.-Libyan relations."

The administration's decision also comes at a time when it is attempting to shore up relations with major oil producers because of high prices and a shortage of supplies. Libya has substantial oil reserves.

Qaddafi was once seen by Washington as perhaps the most dangerous man in the Middle East. President Reagan ordered air attacks against Libya in 1981 and 1986, the latter because of suspected Libyan sponsorship of a terrorist attack at a West Berlin disco frequented by American soldiers. Two Americans died there.

Since 2003, however, Libya has been held up as a model by the administration for the way aspiring nuclear weapons powers should behave.

The American attack on Iraq made Qaddafi wonder whether he would be next. In December 2003, he agreed to surrender his weapons of mass destruction facilities and agreed to allow them to be shipped for storage in the United States.