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US hopes to fully normalize relations with Libya by end of the year

WASHINGTON, July 10 (KUNA) -- A senior State Department official said on Thursday that the United States hopes to fully normalize its relationship with Libya by the end of the term of President George W. Bush in January 2009.
"We would like to close down the second term of this Presidencys time in office having the US-Libyan relationship on very solid ground", said Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Welch.
He added that the US looks forward to normalize all aspects of its relationship with Libya, not only diplomatic one.
"There is a sincere commitment on each side to fix the problems of the past", said Welch.
The US official was speaking at an event by the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce where Chief of Mission of the Libyan Embassy in Washington Ambassador Ali Aujali was presented "the Ambassador of the year Award".
Welch noted that in spite of the "estrangement" in the past decades, this bilateral relationship "has evolved and changed considerably".
One of the last pending issues between the two countries is the settlement for American families of the victims who died in the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in August 2003. US and Libyan officials are still discussing this settlement.
"We are confident we will overcome our problems as soon as possible to pave the way for real business", said Ambassador Aujali who is serving in his position since 2004.
"We have been able to achieve great things in a short time, we did not achieve anything in 25 years of hostility", he added.
Aujali noted that the number of Libyan students in the United States has increased from 140 in 2007 to 850 in 2008. (end) jm.tg KUNA 102249 Jul 08NNNN