By Afaf el-Geblawi - TRIPOLI
The Libyan and US flags will soon be flying in Washington and Tripoli to mark a new page in diplomatic ties after decades of enmity, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son said in an interview with AFP.
"The American flag will be raised in Libya and the Libyan flag hoisted in the United States in the next few days," Seif el-Islam said Monday, apparently referring to the opening of embassies.
Diplomatic relations were restored in June 2004 after a 24-year rupture following Kadhafi's surprise announcement the previous December that he was giving up the quest for weapons of mass destruction.
However, a senior US official said in Washington that he was not aware of any imminent opening of a US embassy in Libya. "I think there are some issues to be resolved as far as I understand," he said.
Currently the two nations are represented in each other's capital by liaison offices.
"I think that we have certainly come a long way from where we were in our relationship with Libya, but there are certainly issues that still need to be addressed and we're working with Libya on these issues," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"If they continue to make progress along the pathway that we have laid out, we, again, will meet their acts of good faith in return," he told reporters.
"We will see how the relationship evolves. But the relationship will evolve in a way that reflects actions and facts on the ground."
El-Islam's comments follow a weekend visit to the once pariah state by influential US Senator Richard Lugar, who said Kadhafi had expressed hope US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would visit.
Kadhafi's son, who said he himself would travel to the United States soon to open a first exhibition of his paintings in that country, also foresaw the removal of Libya from a US list of alleged state sponsors of terrorism.
The move would come "before the end of the year... following the serious efforts of the two parties to resolve this question", he said.
Kadhafi's diplomatic reversal was sparked after Tripoli denounced terrorism and acknowledged responsibility for the Lockerbie and French UTA plane bombings in the 1980s, paying out millions in compensation.
El-Seif, who heads the Kadhafi Foundation charitable organisation, also called for international investors "to take advantage of the economic opening in Libya", stressing his country had "no problems with Europe nor with the United States".
The Libyan economy is "going through a transitional period after the decision to privatise the public sector which the state was not managing to run", he said.
But the country was going through difficulties because of "differences between supporters and opponents of privatisation".
The government has announced plans to privatise 360 public companies between 2004 and 2008, following the transfer of 48 industrial, agricultural and maritime firms from the public to the private sectors in 2003.
On the political front, "decrees and laws are in the process of being drawn up to encourage the emergence of a free press and independent radios", the Libyan leader's son said.
"It is the right of a journalist to write what he wants and to ignore the instructions he is handed, but it also the state's right to question journalists on some of their writings," he said.
Lugar said after his visit that he had discussed human rights and economic cooperation with Kadhafi as well as efforts to have Libya removed from the terrorism list.
Tripoli had "adopted a definitive position on the matter" of terrorism and there has been a "major and progressive" improvement in relations between the two countries, the senator said.