US might lift Libyan travel ban

The United States may extend its ban on travel by US citizens to Libya for only 90 days, rather than a full year.

    Presently, US passport holders need special permission to travel to Libya

    In addition, the ban might be scrapped if Tripoli allayed US suspicions about its support for terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, US officials said on Wednesday.
     
    The officials, who asked not to be named, said the Bush administration had yet to make a decision on the travel ban, which they said was set to expire on 24 November.

    The ban was imposed in 1981 after Libyan jets fired on US aircraft taking part in a naval exercise over international waters claimed by Libya.

    A 90-day extension would give the administration more time to carry out the review of its overall sanctions policy towards Libya that it promised after Libya formally took responsibility this summer for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

    It would also be a hint to Libya that Washington might be willing to end the travel ban and perhaps lift other US sanctions, if Tripoli were more forthcoming on issues from terrorism to weapons of mass destruction.

    Terrorism sponsor

    The United States has long listed Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism.

    The Central Intelligence Agency believes Tripoli is seeking an offensive chemical weapons capability and says some evidence suggests Libya has sought dual-use items that could use, develop and produce biological warfare agents.

    "It looks like it will be extended for 90 days"

    US official

    "It looks like it will be extended for 90 days," said one official of the travel ban. "It isn't definite, but apparently the wind is blowing that way."

    Another US official said a 90-day extension, if approved, could "send a signal to the Libyans" and give them time to "get back to us on WMD and on support for terrorism."

    Ending the travel ban might be somewhat helpful to several US oil companies, including ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Amerada Hess Corp, that were forced out of Libya because of US sanctions, because it would make it easier to visit their concessions there.
     
    At present, US passports are not valid for travel to Libya without a special validation from the US government.

    An oil industry consultant who asked not to be named said US oil company executives had received US permission to visit Libya in recent years.

    Libya has allowed US companies to keep their concessions in the country even though some of them are close to, or already have, expired, he added, but it is not clear whether it will do so forever.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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