Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling for rapid Bush administration and Senate action to formally nominate and confirm a U.S. ambassador to Libya, a step he said would contribute to resolving once and for all the lingering disputes over Libya's financial settlements with the families of American victims of the Pan Am 103 airliner bombing in 1988 and the bombing of the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin in 1986.
"We cannot allow that nation's success story to falter in any way," Lugar yesterday told a conference sponsored by the U.S.-Libya Business Association, meeting in Washington. Lugar recalled a meeting with Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi in Tripoli two years ago in which, he said, Qadhafi complained that "a great deal has been given up and not much has been attained."
Lugar said Libyan officials still hold the same view, as he expressed his concern that the lack of complete normalization of diplomatic relations with Libya retarded progress on an important foreign policy breakthrough.
"We have to get up to speed," Lugar said. The Indiana senator cited one example of unfinished business with Libya: The Bush administration last year rejected a Libyan request for more financial assistance to destroy precursor chemicals that could be used for the deadly gas sarin. He called on the administration to revisit that decision. Lugar was followed at the podium by Mohamed Layas, the chairman of the Libya Investment Authority. Layas called for expanding private-sector investment in oil and gas production, tourism, infrastructure, and joint ventures in trade.
Layas said he hopes that Libya will in the near future sign two more deals with American energy companies, but he did not identify the companies.