The United States resumed direct diplomatic ties with Libya on Monday after a 24-year break, even as the Bush administration pursued reports that Moammar Kadafi had taken part in a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.
The announcement was made in Tripoli by Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns after talks with Kadafi, and by the State Department in Washington.
Burns inaugurated a U.S. liaison office in Tripoli in what was the administration’s latest move to reciprocate for Kadafi’s promise in December to dismantle his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
Burns said he and J. Cofer Black, who heads the State Department’s office of counter-terrorism, had discussed “recent public allegations regarding Libya and Saudi Arabia” with Kadafi.
At the State Department, spokesman Adam Ereli said, “I think we made clear our concerns about the story” concerning an alleged plot against Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Abdullah is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in lieu of King Fahd, who is gravely ill.
Ereli said that if the reports proved true, “it would call into question continued development of relations with Libya.”
Allegations of a plot against Abdullah were mentioned separately by Abduraham M. Alamoudi, an American Muslim leader jailed in Alexandria, Va., on federal charges of having illegal financial dealings with Libya, and by Col. Mohammed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer in Saudi custody.
Burns said the two sides “held detailed discussions on Libya’s commitment to support the global war on terrorism, to repudiate the use of violence for political purposes and to implement its pledge to cease all support for terrorism.”
Burns, who is the senior department official dealing with the Middle East, gave no indication in his statement of what Kadafi might have said about the plot reports.
On other subjects, Burns said the U.S. delegation expressed appreciation for Libya’s humanitarian assistance to civil war victims in Darfur, Sudan, and recalled its decision to accept responsibility and pay compensation for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims’ families.