Reuters: The United States said on Wednesday improved relations with Libya, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits this week, showed how countries like Iran and North Korea could be rewarded for a change in behavior.
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday improved relations with Libya, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits this week, showed how countries like Iran and North Korea could be rewarded for a change in behavior.
Rice's visit, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State since 1953, takes place five years after Libya announced it was giving up its weapons of mass destruction program.
"The secretary's visit is going to be a huge demonstration of the fact that by changing behavior, a country can change the nature of a relationship," said Paula DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for verification, compliance and implementation.
"Countries that change terrorism behavior, cooperate with us, have a way forward," she told a news briefing.
Rice holds up Libya as a foreign policy success for the Bush administration and an example to Iran and North Korea that rewards could follow if they drop their nuclear programs.
The United States is at loggerheads with both Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs.
Tehran refuses to give up sensitive nuclear work the West believes is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran says it is for power purposes.
Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack said when he announced the Libya trip that the top U.S. diplomat had made clear she would meet her Iranian counterpart any time, any place, as long as Tehran met U.S. and Western demands over its nuclear program. The United States has no diplomatic relations with Tehran.
The dispute, hostile rhetoric and speculation about a possible confrontation with Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, have roiled global crude markets this year.
Six-party talks designed to end North Korea's nuclear programs have hit new snags in recent months, with Pyongyang refusing to agree on a verification mechanism and reports that it would start to reassemble its Yongbyon nuclear plant despite promises to the contrary.
North Korea began disabling its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon in November as a step toward their ultimate dismantlement in exchange for economic aid and political concessions, including removal from the U.S. terror list. Libya came off that list in June, 2006.
"Everyone knew that the actions they were taking at Yongbyon were reversible. The question is are they deciding they just want to blow it off or are they just posturing. They like to posture," said DeSutter.
One difference between Libya and North Korea was that Tripoli had made a "strategic commitment" to give up its weapons of mass destruction program and went in with sledgehammers and blowtorches to quickly eliminate its facilities so they could never be used again.
"I have yet to see the sort of things that we would look for as a strategic commitment (from North Korea)," she said.
U.S. officials cited examples where Washington planned to improve its ties with Libya, including a trade and investment deal. Agreements were being discussed to increase cooperation in cultural, political, security and political areas.
In addition, the United States is funding a new nuclear medicine plant in Libya, which should be completed within the next four years.
"It is an example of the kind of things that this kind of behavior change by Libya opens the door for and allows us to go forward in a very cooperative fashion," said Don Mahley, a special negotiator for nonproliferation. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by David Storey)