US moves closer to Libya despite lingering concerns

Libya's remarkable transformation from US foe to friend is almost complete. Despite unresolved terrorism and human rights concerns, the United States took another step toward ending decades of hostility with the north African nation on Thursday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held talks here with the Libyan foreign minister in the highest-level contact between the two countries in Washington in 35 years. The visit of the minister, Abdel-Rahman Shalqam, to Rice's State Department offices capped years of improving ties that began in 2003 when Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon his weapons of mass destruction programs, renounce terrorism and pay compensation to the families of victims of several attacks, including the infamous 1988 bombing of Pam Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Those steps marked the beginning of the end for Libya's international pariah status, removing UN and US sanctions, allowing it to sail without opposition into a seat on the UN Security Council last year and normalizing relations with the West. The United States and Libya restored diplomatic relations in 2004 after a 27-year hiatus and shortly after his meeting with Rice, Shalqam watched as officials from the two countries signed their first bilateral agreement - a science and technology cooperation pact. Rice did not attend the signing ceremony.