Monday’s announcement may signal that Washington could ease some sanctions if Tripoli addressed US allegations of terrorism and alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Libya is a country “where there is imminent danger to the public health or physical safety of United States travellers”, in a notice published in the US Federal Register.

US officials said the move was designed to signal Libya that if it were to address US concerns, Washington might ease the sanctions on Tripoli.

US officials privately say there is no technical reason to maintain the 1981 travel ban. It was imposed when concerns rose that US citizens would be attacked in Libya after US fighters shot down two Libyan aircrafts that had fired on them during a US naval exercise over the Mediterranean that year.

Lockerbie resolved

A major obstacle to ending the ban was removed with Libya’s decision in August to take responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. It also paid compensation of up to $2.7 billion for the 270 victims.

Pan Am crash  left 270 people  
dead, including 11 on the ground

With Lockerbie settled, the UN Security Council ended world body sanctions on Libya. Attention was shifted to US sanctions, which include a 1982 ban on imports of Libyan crude oil to the United States.  

In 1986, sanctions expanded to include a ban on direct trade, commercial contracts and travel-related activities.

But Washington has laid out tough conditions for removing its sanctions on Libya.

It listed human rights, Libyan’s alleged role in regional conflicts, along with the North African country’s alleged pursuit of illegal chemical and biological arms.

US oil companies forced to quit work in Libya due to Washington’s sanctions include ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Amerada Hess Corp.