US not ready to remove Libya from terrorist list

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Bogota (Colombia), Mar 24: The United States is keeping Libya on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, even though the North African country has become a good partner on security matters, a senior US official said.

Next month when the State Department publishes its annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report, Libya will remain on the list, Henry Crumpton, the US State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told Reuters while in Colombia for a regional security conference.

Crumpton said yesterdaay Sudan -- which is also on the list along with Cuba, Syria, North Korea and Iran -- will not make it off this year either, despite some advances in counterterrorism cooperation.

He said no new state sponsors would be added.

Presence on the terrorism list bars a country from getting US arms, controls sales of items with military and civilian applications, limits US aid and requires Washington to vote against loans from international financial institutions.

Asked if Libya would be taken off the list in the April report, Crumpton said, ''The answer to that is no. However, Libya has made enormous progress in the the last couple of years and we are hopeful that at some point we can address that question.'' Libya, long considered a pariah state by Washington, decided in 2003 to abandon nuclear weapons and took responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

''It's a question of confidence and time,'' Crumpton said. ''I must stress though that in terms of intelligence cooperation, in terms of operational impact on the enemy, Libya is a good partner.'' A senior Libyan official said in January his country expected to be taken off the list soon, and speculation has mounted over the past year that Libya might get its wish in recognition of its counterterrorism progress and as bilateral diplomatic and economic ties grow.

Earlier today Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave a lecture on democracy via video link to an unprecedented gathering of US and Libyan academics in New York, and touted Libya's political system as superior to ''farcical'' and ''fake'' parliamentary and representative democracies in the West.

Sudan stays on the list

Sudan, once home to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is also kept on the list as human rights concerns weigh on its improving ties with the United States.

''They have made some progress in some areas but Darfur is a heartbreaking tragedy,'' Crumpton said.

In Darfur in western Sudan, where fighting still rages despite a cease fire, the United Nations says the state is supporting Arab militias conducting ethnic cleansing.

''I have spoken directly to the Sudanese about this and we have told them, even considering the other benchmarks that we have set, you cannot ignore Darfur and their policies there,'' Crumpton said.

Asked if any new states would be put on the list, Crumpton said, ''We have no one who will be designated in the next few weeks.'' Iraq was dropped from the list in October, 2004 following the 2003 US invasion that toppled former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Analysts say none of the other states on the list were likely candidates for removal any time soon.

Reuters

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