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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 17:42 GMT
US talks break ice with Gaddafi
Gaddafi accepts a plaque from congressman Curt Weldon
US-Libyan relations have been gradually improving
US congressmen have held talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on a landmark visit to Tripoli.

The delegates said the meeting was "warm" and that they had discussed renewing ties between Libya and the US.

They also discussed the issue of weapons of mass destruction and visited a nuclear facility near the capital.

The trip comes amid improving relations between Libya and the US, and follows Colonel Gaddafi's decision to abandon a nuclear weapons programme.

Washington severed ties with Tripoli in 1981, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

Nuclear tour

Speaking after meeting the Libyan leader, delegation leader Curt Weldon said the talks had been "very positive".

Curt Weldon speaks after stepping off the first US-flagged plane to land in Libya for decades
It is the first US official visit to Libya for decades
"We discussed the hope that we will achieve normal relations soon," he said

"We talked of weapons of mass destruction," he said, but did not elaborate.

Last month, Colonel Gaddafi said in a surprise announcement that Libya would stop trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Commenting on the talks, Democrat Solomon Ortiz said "we want to forget the past - on this new day we want to turn a new page".

Before meeting the Libyan leader, the delegates toured a nuclear plant used for scientific purposes east of Tripoli.

The meeting took place in a tent near the site of Colonel Gaddafi's former house, which was bombed by the United States in 1986 after Libya bombed a German disco, killing a US soldier and a Turkish woman.

Thirty-seven people, including Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter, died in the American raid.

Ties 'soon'

Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Hasuna al-Shawsh said the two sides had discussed "ways to strengthen ties and establish equal relations between the two countries".

The delegation's visit to Libya came a day after congressman Tom Lantos became the first US official to set foot in Libya for 38 years.

Mr Lantos predicted normal relations would be restored between Washington and Tripoli by next year.

A US embargo imposed on Libya in 1986 remains in place, although the United Nations lifted sanctions last year after Libya agreed to compensate victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.


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The BBC's David Bamford
"The United States needs oil and Libya has lots of it"



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