Could Libya's Qaddafi Become a U.S. Ally?

ByABC News
August 1, 2003, 7:45 PM

Aug. 4, 2003 -- Nearly 15 years after Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, former diplomats and Arab world experts maintain the old Muammar Qaddafi the one behind numerous terrorist attacks in the 1980s has curtailed his rogue ways and is even signaling that he would like to establish a relationship with the U.S. government.

While some U.S. officials have acknowledged the merits of creating diplomatic ties with Libya, they are firm in their insistence that a new relationship can only come when Qaddafi owns up to the Lockerbie bombing. All 259 aboard the New York-bound plane and 11 people on the ground perished when a bomb allegedly planted by two Libyan agents exploded on Dec. 21, 1988.

But despite having handed over the two suspects and even offering to pay victims' families $2.7 billion, Qaddafi still seems even after all these years incapable of an apology.

David Mack, vice president of the Middle East Institute and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, says Qaddafi today doesn't display the same recklessness or nationalistic demagoguery he did when he ordered a French airliner shot down in 1989, authorized the bombing of a Berlin disco in 1986 and reportedly funded the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985.

"He makes less and less of his outrageous statements directed at the West," said Mack. "I believe there is plenty of evidence that Qaddafi has become a wiser, more cautious individual than he was when we had the confrontations that led to Lockerbie."

"He certainly has become calmer and less revolutionary," said Mary Jane Deeb, an Arab specialist at the Library of Congress. "He has decided to portray himself as a statesman."

Seeking to Have Sanctions Lifted

Experts agree that Libya has altered its tactics dramatically.

"By all measures, Libya has changed its behavior," said Richard Nelson of the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based group that offers advice on establishing relations with adversary countries.