August 20, 2005

Gaddafi invites Bush, Rice to visit Libya-senator

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, keen to
improve ties with the West, has invited President Bush and
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit his country, a
visiting U.S. senator said on Saturday.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard
Lugar, ending a two-day trip to Libya, told a news conference
he had held talks with Gaddafi on normalizing relations after
decades of estrangement, following Tripoli's decision to
abandon weapons of mass destruction.

Lugar, an Indiana Republican, flew to Libya on Friday after
representing 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.

Lugar's trip was the highest-profile U.S. visit to Libya
since relations began to thaw.

The United States and other Western countries have been
rebuilding ties with Tripoli after Libya accepted
responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie,
Scotland, and said it would give up weapons of mass

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

"I noted the dramatic improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations
and stressed the U.S. commitment to a continually improving
relationship as cooperation between our countries grows," Lugar
said, adding that the two countries had important shared
interests, including in combating terrorism.