Libya Travel Ban Lifted; Firms Can Begin Talks
The United States lifted a long-standing ban on travel to Libya on Thursday and invited American companies to begin planning their return, after Moammar Kadafi’s government affirmed that it was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.
The administration also encouraged Libya to establish an official presence in Washington by opening an “interests section,” a diplomatic office a level beneath an embassy. The United States plans to expand its diplomatic presence in Tripoli.
Freedom to travel to Libya gives U.S. companies the opportunity to conduct business legally in Libya’s rich oil fields. The move should also help Kadafi emerge from semi-isolation.
U.S. firms that had holdings in Libya before sanctions were imposed were authorized to negotiate the terms of renewing those operations, the White House said. However, the companies will be required to obtain U.S. approval for any agreement.
The Treasury Department said the prohibition on flights to Libya by U.S. carriers remained in place for now.
The United States has been moving toward improved relations with Libya since Kadafi renounced the development of weapons of mass destruction and allowed weapons inspectors to verify that the country was abandoning its nuclear, chemical and biological programs.
The easing of restrictions was cheered in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
“The Americans are welcome here any time,” said Abdul Tahar, a 20-year-old student selling carpets and prayer rugs in the old Medina, a labyrinth of streets and markets behind high walls. “American tourists and American dollars. Anything that will improve the situation here is welcome.”
The lifting of the travel ban came after the news agency Jana disavowed assertions by the Libyan prime minister that Libya had not acknowledged responsibility for the bombing of the Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.