First US ambassador to Libya in decades starts Dec.

In a sign of warming US-Libyan ties since Tripoli's December 2003 decision to abandon the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, Gene Cretz will be sworn in as Washington's ambassador to Libya, the first in three decades, on Dec. 17.


WASHINGTON - The first U.S. ambassador to Libya in three decades will be sworn in on Dec. 17 and take up his post a few days later, the U.S. State Department said on Friday in a further sign of the two nations' improving ties.

Gene Cretz, a career U.S. diplomat whose foreign postings have included Tel Aviv, Damascus, Cairo, Islamabad, New Delhi, and Beijing, was confirmed as Washington's ambassador to Libya by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 20.

There has been a dramatic warming in U.S.-Libyan ties since Tripoli's December 2003 decision to abandon the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and the subsequent resolution of disputes over bombings that Washington long blamed on Libya.

U.S. officials said the last big obstacle to normal ties was removed when Libya last month paid $1.5 billion into a fund to settle claims by the families of U.S. citizens killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the 1986 attack on a West Berlin disco and other such incidents.

After Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi seized power in a 1969 coup, U.S.-Libyan ties became increasingly strained because of the North African nation's support for what the United States regarded as international terrorism.

The United States withdrew its ambassador from Tripoli in 1972 and all U.S. diplomats left after a mob attacked and set fire to the U.S. Embassy in 1979. The two countries re-opened lower-level missions in each other's capitals in 2004 and upgraded them to full embassies in 2006.

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