The Vatican Establishes Diplomatic Relations with Libya
Marshall, Toni, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The Vatican announced yesterday the establishment of full diplomatic relations with Libya, drawing words of disapproval from the Clinton administration, which reportedly had lobbied to keep Moammar Gadhafi's regime isolated.
"The United States does not approve of anyone establishing diplomatic relations with Libya," said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns when asked about the decision. "We don't believe that Libya is a government that one can do business with cooperatively."
While stressing that he did not mean to imply any criticism of the pope, Mr. Burns also said the United States had "told the Vatican that we do not agree with this decision."
The Vatican said it went ahead because Libya had taken steps to safeguard religious freedom and that the new link could help the Holy See play a role in monitoring peace and security in the Mediterranean region.
"The Holy See expects positive international reactions, considering that the diplomatic ties have been made both to favor the life of the local church and to contribute to international detente," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.
Reuters news agency quoted diplomatic sources saying Washington had been urging the Vatican for some time not to establish formal ties with Libya, which it seeks to isolate diplomatically.
The United States "told them that they thought that it was not a good idea, that the United States was very concerned about support for terrorism and the suspicion that Libya is seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction," a diplomatic source told Reuters.
The source stressed that there was no attempt to pressure the Vatican.
Vatican relations with Libya were tense in the past because of the Muslim nation's treatment of its small Roman Catholic community, which numbers about 50,000 people.
Mr. Navarro-Valls said the new diplomatic relationship promises to encourage "friendship and cooperation between Christians and Muslims of that nation. …