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Libya: US Allows Oil Groups In

by Edward Alden and Salamander DavoudiFinancial Times
February 27th, 2004

The US on Thursday said it would let US oil companies reopen negotiations with the Libyan government over potentially lucrative oil leases that have been off- limits since Washington imposed sanctions on the government of Muammer Gadaffi in 1986.

The concession was among measures announced by the White House on Thursday to reward Libya for deciding to renounce weapons of mass destruction and compensate the victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

The US said it would lift all restrictions on Americans travelling to Libya, allowing visits for the first time in 23 years, and would invite Tripoli to re-establish partial diplomatic relations by sending permanent representatives to Washington.

"While more remains to be done, Libya's actions have been serious, credible and consistent with Colonel Gadaffi's public declaration that Libya seeks to play a role in 'building a new world free from [weapons of mass destruction] and from all forms of terrorism' ", the White House said.

Testifying before the Senate foreign relations committee, William Burns, secretary of state for near eastern affairs, said on Thursday he remained concerned about Libya's continued involvement in African countries, particularly the regimes in Zimbabwe and Liberia.

"US Libyan relations can only be rebuilt if we develop confidence in the Libyan regime's commitment to repudiate its past support for terrorism. We are still concerned about problems in Liberia and Zimbabwe."

The White House announcement was delayed from Monday after Shukri Ghanem, Libya's prime minister, said in a BBC interview his country had agreed to the Lockerbie settlement only to "buy peace".

But on Wednesday Libya said it stood by its letter to the UN last August, which stated that it "accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials" in bringing down PanAm Flight 103.

Four US oil companies - Occidental Petroleum and a coalition comprising ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Amerada Hess - hold oil leases in Libya.

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