After spending more than a quarter-century on the United States' State Sponsor of Terrorism list, Libya has finally completed its journey back into the relative good graces of the U.S. government.
The State Department announced today that it would remove Libya from the list in 45 days as part of a three-pronged process of normalizing U.S.-Libyan relations, declaring that Libya was "out of the terrorism business."
In a statement announcing the restoration of full diplomatic relations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Libya was being rewarded for its "renunciation of terrorism and the excellent cooperation Libya has provided to the United States" in the war on terror. Libya has, in recent years, shared intelligence with the U.S. government that has helped track terrorist networks, including al Qaeda.
The re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the removal of sanctions is also seen as a reward for Libya's surprising dismantling of its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The announcement comes at a time when the United States is looking to convince two other countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list -- Iran and North Korea -- that cooperating with international demands will ultimately lead to greater gains for their countries.
"Today's announcement demonstrates that, when countries make a decision to adhere to international norms of behavior, they will reap concrete benefits," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch said.
The United States will also reopen its embassy in Tripoli, Libya's capital, for the first time since the building was set aflame by a mob and closed in 1979. The United States withdrew its last ambassador in 1972, but withdrew its remaining personnel from the embassy after the attack. Less than two years later, Libyan diplomats were expelled from Washington.
Libya will also be removed from another list: countries not cooperating with the U.S. war on terror. Venezuela was added to this list today, with the State Department citing the country's ties to Cuba and Iran. The decision means that the United States will ban arms sales to Venezuela, whose leader, Hugo Chavez, has been an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy.
Removal from these two lists will mean that Libya will no longer be subject to restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on arms sales, certain export controls, and other financial sanctions.
The State Department sought to reassure those who remained unsure about the decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Libya. "This was not a decision that we arrived at without carefully monitoring and assessing Libya's behavior," Welch said.
"The relevant U.S. government agencies conducted a thorough review of Libyan conduct since 2003," he said, citing Libya's having distanced itself from terrorist organizations with which it once had maintained relations.
The State Department said today's announcement did not indicate the United States had resolved its other concerns about Libya.
"Instead, these steps will enable us to engage with Libyans more effectively on all issues," Welch said. "In particular, we continue to call upon Libya to improve its human rights record and to address in good faith cases pending in U.S. courts with regard to its terrorist activities of the 1980s."