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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
British relations warm with Libya

The Lockerbie bombing in 1988 severely hampered relations
By Middle East correspondent Frank Gardner

A senior British official begins a visit to Libya on Tuesday as relations between the two countries continue to improve after years of mutual hostility.

The visit comes after Britain re-opened its embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last year after a 15 year break in diplomatic relations.

Sir John Kerr who is the permanent under-secretary of the British Foreign Office is the most senior British official to visit Libya since 1984.

During his two-day visit he is due to meet Libya's de-factor foreign minister Mohammed Abderrahman Shalgham.

Political element

Although Britain's Foreign Office is playing down the visit as a routine call on a newly re-opened embassy, there is inevitably a political element.

Colonol Gaddafi: Encouraging new trade with Europe

Next week the trial is due to begin in the Netherlands of two Libyan suspects accused of blowing up a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie 12 years ago.

UN sanctions against Libya were suspended last year after Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, agreed to let the men stand trial.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said one of Sir John Kerr's messages to his Libyan hosts will be that improved relations depend on continued co-operation.

Britain is seeking Libya's help in the investigation into the death of a British police woman, Police Constable Fletcher in 1984.

She was killed by shots fired from inside the Libyan Embassy in London.

But neither the Lockerbie trial nor the Fletcher investigation is deterring European companies from investing in Libya.

As interest increases in Libya's economy, the country is hoping that the days when it was accused of sponsoring international terrorism are finally over.

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | Africa
Gaddafi steals the show
04 Apr 00 | Africa
Gaddafi attacks Europe
04 Apr 00 | Middle East
Tight security at Africa-Europe summit
06 Apr 99 | Lockerbie Trial
Libyans' first court appearance
06 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Libya calls for 'fresh start'
07 Apr 99 | The Economy
UK exporters eye Libya
07 Jul 99 | UK Politics
UK restores Libya links
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