US secretary of state Condeleeza Rice said in late December that she would like to travel to the country, stating that it would be an ‘important step’ in cementing ties between the two countries, Reuters reported.

“I actually look forward to the opportunity to go to Libya,” Rice told Reuters, without specifying when the trip might take place. “I think it will be an important step.”

Rice is set to meet with her Libyan counterpart Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam in Washington on 3 January. She said she was looking for an “opportunity to extend our relationship further.”

Relations between the two countries have been gradually improving since 2003 when Libya renounced its programme to develop weapons of mass destruction and accepted responsibility for the 1988 bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie.

The US removed sanctions against Tripoli in 2004 and in 2006 it removed the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In October 2007, Washington chose not to block Libya’s candidacy for a seat on the UN security council as it had done in 1995 and 2000.