NEWS & OPINION: Libya’s official redemption

Libya officially welcomed back to the U.S. fold

Abdel-Rahman Shalqam and his wife received a personal tour of the White House, an official escort on Capitol Hill and a luncheon with executives from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Raytheon, as well as the U.S. trade representative’s office.

So began the official redemption of Libya yesterday, as the foreign minister of a country once equated with “barbarism” became that nation’s highest ranking official to visit Washington in 35 years.

Shalqam continues meetings today with the secretaries of state, homeland security and energy, as well as the deputy secretary of defense, about ways to deepen ties between Washington and Tripoli, according to both U.S. and Libyan officials. At lunch yesterday, he virtually gushed about the importance of Libyan students getting an American education and U.S. companies doing business in Libya. [complete article]

Libya’s inconvenient truth

Tomorrow, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam is to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Their sit-down at the State Department will come nearly seven months after President Bush declared himself a “dissident president” and promised active support for dissidents around the world. “I asked Secretary Rice,” Bush said during a speech in Prague, “to send a directive to every U.S. ambassador in an un-free nation: Seek out and meet with activists for democracy. Seek out those who demand human rights.”

Nothing of the sort happened. In fact, in its embrace of Tripoli, the Foreign Service has built a wall of silence around human rights concerns.

More than a year and a half ago the State Department removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, confirming Libya’s status change from pariah to example. “Libya is an important model to point to as we press for changes in policy by other countries,” a department statement declared. But if Libya is a model, human rights advocacy and reform will be casualties. [complete article]

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