TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, keen to improve ties with the West, has invited President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit his country, a visiting U.S. senator said on Saturday.
U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, ending a two-day trip to Libya, told a news conference he had held talks with Gaddafi on normalizing relations after decades of estrangement, following Tripoli”s decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction.
Lugar, an Indiana Republican, flew to Libya on Friday after representing Bush in Morocco and Algeria for the release of 404 prisoners of war who were held by Western Sahara”s exiled Polisario Front independence movement.
Lugar”s trip was the highest-profile U.S. visit to Libya since relations began to thaw.
The United States and other Western countries have been rebuilding ties with Tripoli after Libya accepted responsibility for the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and said it would give up weapons of mass destruction.
Top Western officials who have visited Libya include Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
"I noted the dramatic improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations and stressed the U.S. commitment to a continually improving relationship as cooperation between our countries grows," Lugar said, adding that the two countries had important shared interests, including in combating terrorism.