- Title: LIBYA: Flag-raising ceremony marks US return to Libya after 30 year absence
- Date: 14th May 2009
- Summary: SLATE INFORMATION TRIPOLI, LIBYA (MAY 13, 2009) (REUTERS) UNITED STATES EMBASSY SIGN (SOUNDBITE) (English) GENE A. CRETEZ, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO LIBYA, SAYING: "Today, I am honoured to celebrate the first raising of the American flag in Libya in three decades." U.S. DEFENCE OFFICIALS AT THE EMBASSY CEREMONY PREPARE TO RAISE THE U.S. FLAG
- Embargoed: 29th May 2009 13:00
- Reuters ID: LVA694NPYTPTRT4W82QOQ31R6I04
- Story Text: A flag raising ceremony on Wednesday (May 13) has symbolically marked the return of the U.S. to Libya after a 30 year absence.
The ceremony, held before foreign diplomats, officials and media, took place in the new U.S. Embassy compound, still being completed, in Tripoli.
The new U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene A. Cretez, said that he was continuing the daily work of normalising relations with the Libyan government, and creating new ties with the Libyan people. An American visa section opened in Tripoli in April.
The return of the U.S. to Libya and of improving diplomatic relations between Washington and Tripoli comes three decades after ties were severed. In November 1972, the U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Tripoli after it accused Libya of supporting international terrorism.
U.S.-Libyan relations have dramatically improved since December 2003 after Tripoli's decision to give up its weapons of mass destruction programs.
"I've been here over four months and I have found nothing but courtesy on the part of the Libyan officials with whom I have dealt with. I have found nothing but warmth and welcoming spirit from the Libyans who I have met on the street or visiting or whatever. I think we have come a long way even just since the time I have been here in terms of establishing a working relationship with the Libyan government," Cretez said to waiting media.
He said in the short time he had been in Tripoli, he thought the two countries had made much progress in building a new relationship.
"I would say on an official level we have made progress in several different areas and we look forward to even more progress and I think that today's ceremony in which we raised our flag here is just another building block on the way to what we consider to be a normalisation of relationships with the Libyan government and the Libyan people."
Since relations between the two have improved, the United States has ended its major economic sanctions on Libya and has dropped it from a State Department blacklist for "state sponsors of terrorism".
However, some Libyan officials believe their country has not been sufficiently rewarded by the United States, which continues to have concerns about Libya's human rights record.
In its annual survey of human rights, the State Department called Libya's record "poor," described it as an "authoritarian regime" and cited reports of disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and official impunity.
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