Bush writes Gaddafi on prospects for improved ties

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:47pm EDT

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks at the University of Ghana in Accra June 30, 2007. U.S. President George W. Bush has written Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saying Washington wants to strengthen ties with Libya, Libyan news agency Jana reported. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks at the University of Ghana in Accra June 30, 2007. U.S. President George W. Bush has written Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saying Washington wants to strengthen ties with Libya, Libyan news agency Jana reported.

Credit: Reuters/Luc Gnago

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has written to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi saying further strengthening of ties hinges on Libya's adherence to agreements under which it scrapped weapons of mass destruction programs, the White House said on Tuesday.

Bush, in a letter handed to Gaddafi by a senior White House aide on a visit to Tripoli on Monday, also "noted the importance" of resolving outstanding issues between the United States and Libya, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Those include compensation for U.S. relatives of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland, and international demands for the release of Bulgarian nurses whom Libya accuses of infecting children with HIV, Stanzel said.

"We have achieved a great deal since we restored relations between the United States and Libya," Libya's news agency Jana quoted Bush as saying in the letter to his former foe. "I believe our both peoples have benefited from the development of these relations."

Jana said Bush affirmed a willingness to reinforce ties.

The White House did not release the text of Bush's message, which was delivered by his homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend.

But Stanzel said Bush, while thanking Gaddafi for halting WMD programs and "renouncing his support for terrorism," also "reiterated his position that adherence to these agreements is critical to the developing relationship between the United States and Libya."

The United States resumed diplomatic relations with Libya, which had been severed for 24 years, in June 2004 after Libya announced it was abandoning efforts to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In May 2006, Washington announced it would restore full diplomatic ties with Tripoli.

But the case of six foreign medics condemned to death in Libya on charges they infected hundreds of children with the virus that causes AIDS remains a hurdle to deepening Libyan ties with the European Union and the United States.

Both Brussels and Washington have urged Tripoli to free the medics, five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, who say they are innocent and were tortured into confessing.

Libya's Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the medics' appeal on Wednesday.

In Washington, a senior State Department official said on Monday that if Libya's Supreme Court ruled against the medics, he hoped the case would quickly be referred to the country's High Judicial Council, which has the power to commute sentences or issue a pardon.

(Additional reporting by Salah Sarrar in Tripoli and Tabassum Zakaria on Air Force One)

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