U.S. to lift final sanctions against Libya
From Andrea Koppel and Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has told Libya it has met all of its requirements for eliminating its programs on weapons of mass destruction, CNN has learned.
Several administration officials told CNN that as a result, President Bush is expected to remove the remaining U.S. commercial sanctions against Libya in coming days.
In December, Bush announced an agreement between the United States, Britain and Libya for Libya to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions and better relations with the international community.
Bush had promised that Libya's actions would be met with "good faith" by the United States.
Since then, Libya has declared all of its nuclear and chemical weapons programs and embarked on a three-phase disarmament program in which the United States and Britain have removed the majority of WMD material, about 1,032 metric tons, from the country.
"Libya has undertaken sufficient steps for us to have confidence they have fulfilled their strategic commitments," one senior official said. He called the Libyan move "historic."
The lifting of remaining sanctions, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, will pave the way for reinstating direct air service between the United States and Libya and the unfreezing of nearly $1.2 billion in Libyan assets.
The IEEPA sanctions were imposed in 1986 after Libya was blamed for the bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and wounded 229, including 79 Americans.
The lifting of the sanctions would come on the eve of a September 22 deadline for the second of three payments to the families of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
The Libyans agreed to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million per family, in compensation to the families of the 270 victims killed in the attack.
Each of the families received the first sum of $4 million when the United Nations lifted sanctions. The families will each receive an additional $4 million when the United States lifts the trade sanctions, which officials said they expect will occur by Wednesday's deadline.
The families will receive the remaining $2 million when Libya is removed from the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
In April the Bush administration lifted most U.S. sanctions against Libya, opening the way for U.S. investments and commercial activities. The move made most commercial business, investment and trade with Libya possible. In addition, Libyan students are now eligible to study in the United States.
The United States also expanded diplomatic relations with Libya and has established a U.S. liaison office in Tripoli
The United States in February dropped its 23-year-old ban on travel to Libya by U.S. citizens and permitted Americans to spend money in the country.
Officials said that in discussions with the Libyans, the United States has emphasized that Libya's weapons program would not make it a more "secure" nation. However, they argued the Western investment and economic development that would come with disarming and rejoining the international community would strengthen Libya, whose young population suffers from high unemployment.
Libya remains on the State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The restraints on U.S. exports to Libya under the terrorism list prohibit the sale of dual-use goods -- items that could be used for military purposes, such as ammunition and some goods related to civil aviation.
Although the State Department has noted Libya's progress in ending support for terrorism, officials said Libya will not be removed from the list until some remaining concerns are addressed, including Libya's suspected involvement in a plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
One official called the decision to remove Libya from the terrorism list a "political decision" that would be taken only after the Bush administration can be certain of assurances from all levels of the Libyan government that it has ended support for terrorism.
The officials described the nexus of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction as one of the greatest threats to U.S. national security, and said they hope the decision by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to voluntarily disarm will be a model for other rogue nations with large-scale weapons programs.