The Administration today announced that the United States is establishing full diplomatic relations with Tripoli and removing Libya from our official list of state sponsors of terrorism. As the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and a leading voice in Congress for normalizing relations with Libya since it began taking steps in December 2003 to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, I am delighted that we have finally taken these steps.

I first went to Tripoli in January 2004, the first high-ranking U.S. official to make a formal visit there in nearly three decades. I have met four times with Libyan leader Moammar Kadhafi and even frequently with senior members of his government.

Based on my observations from these meetings over the course of five visits to Libya in the past 30 months, the U.S. government’s announcement today is fully warranted. Libya has thoroughly altered its behavior by abolishing its program to develop weapons of mass destruction and ending its support for terrorism. In taking these actions, the United States dramatically demonstrates to the remaining rogue states -- and particularly to Iran and North Korea -- that our country takes note of positive changes in behavior and is more than willing to reciprocate.

There are still issues to be discussed and resolved between our two countries, including a number of concerns about human rights in Libya, well as issues related to U.S. victims of past incidents of Libyan-sponsored terrorism. But establishing full diplomatic relations will serve to open up more avenues for action on these matters, and this is a most welcome development.

When Libya announced it was eliminating its weapons of mass destruction, President Bush declared that nations that follow Tripoli's example will find "an open path" to good relations with the United States. Thus was born the idea of "the Libyan model," an encouragement to states to change their ways in exchange for improved ties with the United States. It was hoped that Iran and North Korea, for example, would be thus induced to consider reversing course.

Now the U.S. has put the finishing touches on the Libyan model by giving the Libyans their just reward. I hope the Iranians and North Koreans are paying attention.