About the Author: Amanda Johnson serves as Libya Desk Officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
I started as the Libya Desk Officer in July 2007, the same month the Bulgarian medics, who were accused of infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/ADS, were released. Since then it has been a whirlwind of activity: a visit by the Libyan Foreign Minister, passage of the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, and signature of a comprehensive claims agreement, just to name a few of the initiatives that we have been working on with Libya.
Although our diplomatic efforts over the past year have been significant and numerous, Libya's journey to rejoin the community of nations came after a long process of reengagement. Its historic 2003 decisions to voluntarily rid itself of its WMD program and renounce terrorism created the foundation from which Libya has today become a leader in Africa and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The United States rescinded Libya's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism in June 2006. Today, Libya is a vital partner in the fight against terrorism, helping to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq. It works closely with its neighbors to combat the growth of terrorism in the Sahara and Trans-Sahel regions.
Libya is also a leader on the African continent. It maintains a humanitarian corridor that provides much needed supplies to the people of Darfur. Working with the African Union Contact Group, it is helping to mediate the conflicts in Chad and Sudan. Additionally, Libya provides development assistance to other African countries.
During the February fighting in N'Djamena between rebels and Chadian government forces, Libya provided critical over flight clearances for U.S. military aircraft to evacuate American citizens and Embassy personnel. Considering the past conflicts in the 1980s over the Gulf of Sidra and the 1986 retaliatory air strikes against Libya, this was no small gesture and provided a symbol of our changing bilateral relationship and Libya's new role in the international community.
In October 2007, the UN General Assembly elected Libya to the UN Security Council. Libya simultaneously took its seat and the Council's one-month rotating presidency in January for the first time since 1977, the same year I was born. The U.S. and Libya have shared interests, but have also differed at times on some key policy points and use of diplomatic tools. Naturally, we would prefer to have their support on some of these issues, but it is noteworthy that Libya -- which serves as a model to others -- voted in favor of placing additional sanctions against Iran for its non-compliance with international efforts to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.
Libya has come a long way in its transformation from an isolated pariah to renewed membership in the international community. After 30 years of sanctions, Libya and its people are beginning efforts to modernize the country's infrastructure and undertake economic reforms. Recently, a nascent discussion on political reforms has begun. We and the international community will work cooperatively with the Libyan government and people to support these initiatives and will continue to call for the opening of further political space, good governance, and greater respect for human rights.