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Blair Meets Gadhafi in Libya - 2004-03-25


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been holding landmark talks with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Mr. Blair is the first British leader in decades to visit the North African country.

British officials say the visit is considered a reward for Mr. Gadhafi's decision to dismantle Libya's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

Mr. Blair has called on the international community to welcome back countries that renounce terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He says Libya's decision deserves recognition, and the international community should help Tripoli rid itself of banned weapons.

Meanwhile,oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell announced today (Thursday) that it has signed a long-term gas and oil exploration deal with Libya. A spokesman for Prime Minister Blair said earlier that the deal was worth 200-million dollars.

British officials say Mr. Blair's visit is part of a coordinated effort by Britain and the United States to show Libya the rewards of cooperating with international institutions.

On Tuesday, U-S Assistant Secretary of State William Burns held talks in Tripoli with Mr. Gadhafi during the first high-level U.S. visit to Libya in decades. Officials say Mr. Burns gave the Libyan leader a letter from President Bush on further steps toward improving relations.

The prime ministers of Italy and Spain have also met with Colonel Gadhafi in recent months.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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