UNITED NATIONS – The Bush administration will not stand in the way of Libya’s bid to join the U.N. Security Council, senior U.S. officials said, paving the way for Tripoli’s full diplomatic rehabilitation at the United Nations.
The decision, which gives the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi a shot to serve on the 15-nation council for the first time in more than 30 years, has infuriated Libyan democracy advocates and some relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
For a government that was long considered an international pariah, sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council for its refusal to surrender Libyan suspects in the bombing, the new policy underscores a remarkable transition. The United States had waged a 15-year diplomatic campaign to bar Libya from serving on the Security Council.
Now, however, Libya is emerging as a diplomatic powerhouse in Africa, where it is preparing to host peace talks between Sudan and rebels in that nation’s strife-torn Darfur region.
In another sign of Libya’s growing prestige, U.S. officials held a series of diplomatic and intelligence meetings last week with Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam and other top Libyan security and intelligence officers during the U.N. General Assembly.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Wednesday with Shalqam; Mutasim-Billah Gadhafi, Libya’s national security adviser and a son of the Libyan leader; and Musa Kusa, the Libyan intelligence chief who was once barred from the United States because of his suspected links to terrorist activities.
The United States used its muscle to derail previous Libyan campaigns in 1995 and 2000 to sit on the council, but a senior U.S. official said that this time it will not block Libya’s bid for a two-year term. “We have not launched any campaign to oppose Libya, but we have not decided whether or not we will support them,” the official said.