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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July 2004, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
WTO go-ahead for Libya talks
The World Trade Organisation has given the green light for Libya to begin talks on becoming a member.

The decision, which received US backing at a meeting in Geneva, is the latest sign of Libya's rehabilitation in the international community.

But analysts said talks on admission were likely to take years.

Iran's application to open membership talks was rejected because of US opposition, while Syria and Afghanistan are also shut out.

Wider access

Talks on admission to the 147-member WTO commonly take years to complete.

The applicant country must conduct bi-lateral negotiations with any WTO member that wishes it.

Existing WTO members commonly push for wider access to the markets of applicant countries and assurances that exports from them will not be anti-competitive.

US and European companies are particularly keen on gaining greater access to Libya's state-dominated oil and gas industry.

More than 20 other countries are in talks to enter the WTO, including two of the world's largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

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