(photo credit: Associated Press)
Libya's top diplomat in the US said that diplomatic relations between Libya and Israel would be possible only after Israel adopted the Beirut summit peace plan, it was reported on Sunday.
Ambassador Ali Aujali, the head of Libya's liaison office in Washington told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that the Arab League's peace initiative from March 2002 was the "best chance" for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The Libyan diplomat told The Post that Libya, which was now renewing full diplomatic ties with the US, had no intentions of trying to take part in mediating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I think the Palestinians and the Israelis know that the best for both of them is to reach peace arrangement," ambassador Aujali said, "I think Libya is keeping itself a little bit away from this crisis and I think the Palestinians and the Israelis are the better people to discuss their differences."
In a seminar on US-Libyan relations, sponsored by the US-Libya Business Association and the Middle East Institute, Libyan and American officials also discussed the possibility of Libya serving as a model for nuclear countries such as Iran and North Korea, which were on a collision course with the US. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) who brokered the deal in which Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi gave up his country's nuclear ambitions, argued that "the Libyan model proves to the world that the US will accept 'yes' for an answer". Lantos added that his hope was that "leaders in Pyongyang and Teheran take a lesson from Libya".
But administration officials did not see Iran walking in the path of Libya. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East, David Welch, who also attended the event, told The Post that he had not seen signs of Iran taking after the Libyan model and stressed the need for Teheran to consider the proposal set forth by the international community. "We have made good suggestions here in common with our European friends, Russia and China. I think that they are giving them a careful look, but we would like a positive answer sooner than later," Welch said.
According to the Libyan diplomat in the US, the slow and dragged out process of renewing ties between his country and the US did not give much of an incentive to countries like Iran to follow in Libya's footsteps and voluntarily give up their nuclear programs. "I am very disappointed," ambassador Aujali told the audience, made up of government officials and American businessmen, "This is not what Iran and North Korea expect."
The frustration on the Libyan side stemmed from the delays in establishing full relations between the two countries, the denial of visas to the US from Libyan students and the ongoing action in Congress to slow down implementing full diplomatic relations between the two countries. In an amendment passed recently in Congress, the administration was prohibited from exchanging ambassadors with Libya before the Libyans agreed to continue paying restitution to families of those killed on Pan Am flight 103 which was blown up over Lockerbie. Lawyers for the Libyan government were in the US trying to finalize all the legal issues surrounding the case.
This Thursday will mark the end of the 45-day period needed for Congress to accept the removal of Libya from the list of countries which sponsor terrorism. This would be the last formal obstacle in the way to establishing full relations between the two countries. Still, administration officials have made it clear that though they are convinced that Libya no longer sponsored terror there were other issues in dispute with the Libyan government. The issue that topped the agenda was Libya's human rights record, the arrests of political opposition leaders and the seven years long imprisonment of several Bulgarian nurses, who were blamed for infecting Libyan children with HIV. The US government demanded that the legal process regarding the nurses be expedited.