US Republican Senator John McCain praised Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi for his peacemaking role in Africa and said Congress would support expanding ties, Libyan state news agency Jana said.
US-Libyan relations have dramatically improved since Tripoli’s decision in December 2003 to give up its weapons of mass destruction programmes, with diplomatic ties resuming in June 2004 after a break of more than two decades.
“McCain and the delegation accompanying him confirmed the importance of expanding further the relations between Libya and the US. The Congress would back the measures to be taken to achieve this aim,” Jana said. It gave no details.
Since Washington ended its major sanctions on Libya, US energy companies including ExxonMobil and Chevron have been active in Libya.
Jana made no mention of any comment by McCain, defeated by Barack Obama in the 2008 US presidential election, about the possible release of Libyan agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, jailed in Britain for his role in blowing up a US airliner in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Unconfirmed media reports this week said Scottish ministers were planning to release him on compassionate grounds because he is dying of prostate cancer.
McCain, heading a four-member Congressional delegation, held talks with Gaddafi’s son Mouatassim, the powerful national security adviser, before meeting Gaddafi himself.
“Senator McCain and the delegation with him expressed their deep happiness to meet the leader and praised him for his wisdom and strategic vision to tackle issues of concern to the world and his efforts to sustain peace and stability in Africa,” Jana said.
Gaddafi is the chairman of the AU and attended the July G8 summit of world leaders in Italy, where he met and shook hands with Obama.
The US designated Libya a “state sponsor of terrorism” in 1979, and President Ronald Reagan ordered Libyan assets in the US frozen in January 1986.
Relations sank further when the US blamed Libya for the deadly bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by US military personnel. US aircraft bombed Tripoli, Benghazi and Gaddafi’s home in April 1986, killing his adopted infant daughter.
President George W. Bush formally ended the US trade embargo in 2004, and Libya declared an end to confrontation with the US in 2008.
But Gaddafi has complained the West has failed to pay back his country for its move to abandon its weapons programmes.
Pic: President Muammar Gaddafi of Libiya