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Libya says feels "cheated" over US terrorism list

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, Mar 24 (Reuters) Libya feels ''cheated'' that it will remain on the US State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism this year even though it has made security concessions, the North African country's top envoy to Washington said today.

Libya will remain on the list in the annual Patterns of Global Terrorism report published next month, Henry Crumpton, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, told Reuters yesterday during a visit to Colombia.

Ali Aujali, chief of the Libyan Liaison Office in Washington, blamed US domestic politics and compared it to the furor in Congress over an attempt by state-owned Dubai Ports World to manage terminals at several US ports.

''I'm sorry to say but it looks like we have been cheated,'' Aujali told the US-Libya Business Association.

''We can't find really a good response to my country why (there has been) this delay. The only explanation is that this is the US domestic politics,'' Aujali said.

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.

The United States has taken steps toward restoring commercial relations with OPEC member Libya since the former pariah state announced its intention in December 2003 to give up weapons of mass destruction.

But Libya still needs to attract about billion in foreign investment to boost its oil production capacity.

Aujali said his country had not been notified of any decision on the terrorism list.

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 last couple of years and we are hopeful that at some point we can address that question.'' Sen Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Libya group that he might call a hearing to question State Department officials on why Libya remains on its list, calling Libya ''an arrow in our quiver'' of secure US oil supplies.

Lugar said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi expressed frustration about the slow pace of US-Libyan detente when Lugar traveled to Libya last year.

''US credibility is at stake here,'' said Randa Fahmy Hudome, a Washington lobbyist for the Libyan government, pointing out that the only nation that has been removed from the State Department's list was Iraq.

''You can't say that the only way to get off the list is for us to liberate you,'' Fahmy Hudome said, pointing out that U.S.

insistence on keeping Libya on its list sends a bad signal to other nations currently on the State Department list, which are Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Syria.

Iraq was dropped from the list in October 2004 following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Reuters DH VP0043

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