August 18, 2005

U.S. senator going to Libya to help normalize relations

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Foreign Relations
Committee Chairman Richard Lugar is going to Libya in another
step toward normalizing relations after Tripoli decided to
abandon weapons of mass destruction, the White House said on

"Senator Lugar will also travel to Libya for official
meetings as a part of the president's initiative to move toward
more normal relations reflecting that country's renunciation of
terrorism and abandonment of its weapons of mass destruction
and longer range missiles," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino

Lugar, an Indiana Republican, will go to Libya August
19-20, but it was not yet clear which officials he would meet,
Perino said. "His schedule is still being ironed out."

Lugar will go to Libya after representing President George
W. Bush in Morocco and Algeria for the release of 404 prisoners
of war who were held by Western Sahara's exiled Polisario Front
independence movement.

But Lugar's Libya trip was not as a representative of Bush,
the White House said. "Senator Lugar's visit to Libya is in his
capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
rather than as part of the Presidential Mission to Algeria and
Morocco. It is consistent with the president's initiative to
move forward toward normal relations with Libya," Perino later

A congressional official said Lugar planned to press Libyan
officials to continue coordinating the scrapping of its weapons
of mass destruction programs with the goal of eventually being
removed from a U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism.

Lugar's trip will be the highest-profile U.S. visit to
Libya, following visits by officials from the Treasury and
State departments.

The United States is making an effort to normalize its
relations with the North African country after Libya accepted
responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie,
Scotland, and said it would give up weapons of mass

The reward for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been a
return to the international fold and prospects for foreign

Top Western officials who have visited Libya include
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, British Prime Minister
Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French
President Jacques Chirac and Italian Prime Minister Silvio