|Committee on International Relations : Interim Undersecretary|
Of State For Political Affairs William Burns' Statement
Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-0128
Statement by The Honorable William J. Burns
House International Relations Committee
March 16, 2005
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity to discuss with you the progress and pace of developments in our relations with Libya. One year ago, I appeared before this committee and stated that Libya's historic actions to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to reaffirm its renunciation of terrorism made it possible to say for the first time in 35 years that US-Libyan relations were on a path of gradual, step-by-step normalization.
I am pleased to report that the last twelve months have seen continued progress on commitments by Libya and a steady development in our bilateral relationship, which has enhanced US security and showcased to the international community the wisdom of Libya's decision to voluntarily renounce weapons of mass destruction and uphold global nonproliferation norms. I do not wish to minimize the challenges that remain before us. The United States and Libya do not see eye to eye on a number of issues and we still have concerns about some key Libyan policies. In particular, we continue to seek assurance that Libya has ended its support for terrorism, and to push for additional reforms in opening the political space in Libya and progress on respect for human rights, areas where much remains to be done. But the new US-Libya partnership, in which we can work through these issues together, is a tribute to the hard work of successive Administrations, members of Congress, and the families of the victims of Pan Am 103, who together produced the tough, principled policy that led Libya to rejoin the international community.
Today, weapons of mass destruction no longer pose a threat to the normalization of US-Libyan relations; to the contrary, we believe that Libyan actions to renounce WMD are a model for other states to emulate. Over a nine month period, from December 2003 to September 2004, Libya facilitated the removal of all critical elements of its declared nuclear weapons program, signed and implemented the IAEA Additional Protocol, acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention, acknowledged Rabta's historical use as a chemical weapons facility and began a process of converting it to a pharmaceutical plant. Libya destroyed its chemical munitions, submitted a declaration of its chemical weapons, equipment and facilities to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, acknowledged Rabta's historical use as a chemical weapons facility, and has began a process of converting it to a pharmaceutical plant. It removed its Scud-C missile force, and agreed to eliminate its Scud-B missiles within a five-year period. Libya turned over nuclear weapons documentation, worked with the international community to remove highly enriched uranium, allowed unimpeded site access by international personnel, engaged in comprehensive discussions over the scope and intent of its WMD and missile programs, and pledged to halt all military trade with countries of proliferation concern. The international community's understanding of the global black market in the world's most dangerous technologies was aided considerably by the revelations that flowed from the Libyan program.
In response to these concrete Libyan actions, the US took equally important steps. We lifted the travel ban on Libya, reestablished direct diplomatic relations, rescinded U.S. sanctions that prohibited U.S. trade and investment, revoked the National Emergency, ended the application of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act to Libya, and encouraged people-to-people exchanges in education and health. We unblocked Libya’s frozen assets and welcomed Libya’s application to the World Trade Organization. In order to demonstrate our full support for the resumption of economic relations, the President announced a policy of seeking a level playing field for US businesses in Libya by instructing US agencies to assist American firms, including by providing access to benefits from the Export Import Bank, OPIC, agricultural commodity credits and tax relief. In recognition that Libya had ended its weapons of mass destruction programs in a transparent manner, the President exercised his authority to waive additional sanctions that otherwise would have been generated by Libya's past nuclear activities.
The transformation of US-Libyan relations can be seen in the breadth of our dialogue and engagement with Libyan officials and society. Today, there are nineteen US diplomats posted in Tripoli, who daily interact with Libyan counterparts on the core issues that comprise our mutual agenda. These issues include reform and the need for greater individual freedom, counterterrorism and the resolution of outstanding US concerns, the Middle East peace process and support for the Palestinian Authority, Darfur relief and the implementation of the Sudan Naivasha peace accord, and Iraq and support for the Iraqi Transitional government. We are pleased by Libya's role in creating a humanitarian relief corridor to Chad and Sudan, and in reinforcing ECOWAS's call for democratic elections in Togo; we welcome the Libyan government's financial support of the Palestinian Authority and willingness to discuss compensation for Libyan Jews whose properties were expropriated under King Idris and following the 1969 revolution; and we view positively Libya's decision to recognize the upcoming Iraqi Transitional Iraqi Government and to post diplomats in Baghdad that followed our strong protests over Libyan statements that defended insurgent attacks on Coalition forces. An important new actor in our dialogue with Libya is the US private sector, which will reinforce the message on the need for transparency, consistency, and rule of law to attract foreign investment to Libya.
Our goal is ambitious: when and if Libyan performance merits it, we would like to graduate Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. However, to reach this goal will require time and hard work to resolve our remaining concerns. We recognize that over the past seven years, Libya has taken substantial steps to distance itself from its previous support of terrorist organizations. The Libyan leadership has commented publicly on the futility of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy; in September 2003, it provided written assurances to the United Nations of its renunciation of terrorism; and in December 2003 it reaffirmed to us its commitment against the use of violence for political purposes.
Since September 11, 2001, Libya also has intensified its cooperation in the global war on terrorism and has provided significant assistance to the United States, which we value. Within this context, we have committed to engage with Libya in a methodical way to try to resolve our remaining concerns, including allegations of a Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. A central issue will be determining whether the motivations that led to Libyan activities against Saudi Arabia have ceased. As our relationship deepens and our confidence grows that Libya is adhering to its renunciation of violence for political purposes, we will look for ways to recognize this positive behavior. We will do so in close consultation with you over how best to move forward in a step-by-step manner.
We are also urging Libya to resolve the legacy of its support for terrorism. As a condition of the removal of the United Nations sanctions, for example, Libya is obligated to cooperate in good faith in the on-going criminal investigation of Pan Am 103. We consistently underscore this requirement, which Libyan officials acknowledge and have reaffirmed.
Similarly, Libya must address the remaining private claims against it in a constructive manner. Over the last year, settlements have been reached by Libya with a number of claimants, including non-American victims of the La Belle discotheque and the UTA bombings, and we understand other settlements may shortly be announced. Under the settlement with the Pan Am 103 families, Libya has paid more than $2 billion. However, a number of claims have still not been addressed. While there are no outstanding U.S. court judgments against Libya, we have urged Libya to try to resolve these cases out of court where claimants have asked us to do so, in order to bring these issues to closure. We also are facilitating contacts between the representatives of the Pan Am families and Libya to discuss the possibility of new arrangements now that the escrow for that portion of the settlement tied to Libya's removal as a State Sponsor has lapsed.
When the United States unblocked Libyan assets, we sought and received an assurance from the government of Libya that it would adhere to its policy of carrying out agreed-upon settlements and respond in good faith to legal cases brought by victims of terrorism, including resulting judgments. We expect Libya to fulfill that commitment. Libya is aware that the assets it is introducing into the United States as economic relations are reestablished will be at risk if they do not do so.
Ultimately, the quality and tenor of our relationship will also reflect the decisions that Libya makes about internal reform. When it comes to the President's personal commitment to support the growth of democracy and freedom in the broader Middle East, there are no exceptions. As the President stated in December 2003, "should Libya pursue internal reform, America will be ready to help its people to build a more free and prosperous country." In consultation with the Committee's staff, we have examined ways to include Libya in the Broader Middle East and North Africa and Middle East Partnership Initiatives and are continuing a high-level dialogue on political, economic, and human rights reform. Soon, we will open an American Center in Tripoli, which will help to reach out to the Libyan people through speakers, educational counseling, and information about American ideals and policies.
We will continue to encourage Libya to uphold its international human rights obligations and to engage constructively with international organizations and non-governmental organizations. We will welcome positive steps taken by the government, such as its decision to invite Amnesty International to visit in February 2004 and to eliminate the People's Courts in January 2005. At the same time, we will express our deep concern over individual cases, such as the redetention of political opposition leader Fathi al-Jahmi and the sentencing to death of five Bulgarian and one Palestinian medic for the infection of over 400 children, in a deeply flawed and politicized legal proceeding.
The dozens of official US visitors to Libya from the Executive and Legislative branches over the past year are evidence of our willingness to respond positively to transformed Libyan policies. Congressional delegations, such as the multiple visits by Representatives Weldon and Lantos, also provide us with unparalleled opportunities to impart our values, to reinforce our interest in promoting the growth of individual freedom, and to underline the importance of Libyan progress in these areas for the overall tenor of our bilateral relationship.
Upgrading our diplomatic mission from a Liaison Office to an Embassy and posting an Ambassador to Tripoli will provide us with a more visible platform to continue to pursue important bilateral objectives, including on human rights. If the spirit of partnership that we established in December 2003 continues we anticipate reopening a U.S. Embassy this year. We have identified a property for a permanent mission, and expect that US diplomats will be able to move out of hotel operations and into a temporary facility by winter 2005. Funding for a new embassy compound will be included in the 2007 budget request for security capital projects, with the permanent facility's opening envisioned in late 2009.
Mr. Chairman, the disarmament of Libya remains a signal accomplishment, but one that we must build on in order to achieve the ambitious agenda established by the President in the region. Only consistent and principled engagement will protect the historic breakthrough of last year and allow us to test Libya's renunciation of terrorism. Advancing these strategic objectives, while promoting individual rights and freedom in Libya, will require invigorated diplomacy, not disengagement. This will remain one of our most challenging relationships in the region. We will continue to consult closely with the Congress and this Committee to ensure that as Libya takes additional steps to meet its obligations to the international community and to its citizens, we recognize these accomplishments in a manner that best serves US national interests.