CIA chief William Burns has met Libya’s interim premier weeks after the authorities handed the United States a suspect in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, the Tripoli-based government said Thursday.
The meeting in Tripoli, also reported by Libyan media, was part of the first visit by a CIA director to the North African country since the 2012 attack against a US mission in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three others.
“Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibeh hosted the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns” at the cabinet office in Tripoli, along with Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush and Libyan intelligence chief Hussein al-Ayeb, Dbeibah’s government said in a Facebook post.
Burns “underlined the need to develop economic and security cooperation between the two countries,” it said.
Last month, a Libyan man accused of making the bomb that destroyed a Pan Am flight over Scotland in 1988 appeared in a US court, after being extradited by Dbeibah’s government.
The move sparked a public backlash against the Tripoli-based government, which is challenged by a rival government in the war-torn country’s east.
Alleged former intelligence agent Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir al-Marimi could face life in prison if convicted of “destruction of an aircraft resulting in death” and two other related charges over the attack, which killed 270 people and was the deadliest-ever terror operation in Britain.
Dbeibah has faced bitter criticism from political rivals, rights groups and relatives of Libyan detainees who fear being handed over themselves. Analysts say the Tripoli-based administration had little option but to adhere to the American request.
Libyan media have reported that Burns would also visit the headquarters of eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar, Dbeibah’s key rival.
Burns, CIA chief since March 2021, visited Libya in 2014 as under-secretary of state for the Middle East.
He was the first US official to visit the country when Washington was mending ties with the regime of late ruler Moammar Gadhafi, in 2004.
Gadhafi’s overthrow and killing in the 2011 revolt plunged Libya into division and violence.
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