July 13, 2005

As ties warm, U.S. pushes Libya on terror financing

By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States pressed Libya to
take tough steps against terrorism financing in the
highest-level U.S. trip to the North African country since
sanctions were lifted, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.

Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury's undersecretary for
terrorism and financial intelligence, said in written testimony
for a Senate banking committee hearing that he had traveled
last month to oil-rich Libya, a pariah since the 1988 Pan Am
bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In a sign of renewed engagement, Levey met with Libyan
leader Muammar Gaddafi, Finance Minister Mohammed Ali
al-Houeiz, and Central Bank Governor Ahmed Mohammed Moneisi to
discuss the fight against dirty money.

Levey "pressed Libya to adopt anti-money laundering and
counter-terrorism financing reforms as it attempts to emerge
from isolation and engage increasingly in the world's financial
community," he wrote in his testimony.

He noted that while Libya's financial sector was still "in
its infancy," the United States expected Tripoli to put the
fight against terrorism financing and money laundering high on
its agenda as part of an overall counterterrorism strategy.

After more than a decade of international isolation, Libya
has been slowly coming in from the cold since 2003, when it
accepted responsibility for a 1988 airliner bombing over
Lockerbie, Scotland and announced its decision to stop pursuing
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The United Nations lifted multilateral sanctions in 2003.
The United States formally ended its own broad trade embargo on
Libya in September 2004, but left in place some sanctions
related to terrorism. Libya remains on a U.S. blacklist of
states it accuses of sponsoring terrorism.

Libya's presence on the list bars it from receiving U.S.
arms exports, controls sales of items with military and
civilian uses, limits U.S. aid and requires Washington to vote
against loans from international financial institutions.

As it re-enters the international fold, Libya is seeking to
liberalize its socialist economy, and investment from countries
like the United States is key. Libya launched a privatization
program in 2003, offering to sell roughly 360 companies.

The move has attracted foreign interest, mostly in the
energy industry. But officials have said foreigners have also
been looking at banks and cement firms.

But some potential investors have voiced frustration at the
slow pace of reform, saying Libya needed to address business
hurdles such as time-consuming bureaucracy and a lack of
independent arbitration mechanisms for contract disputes.