State Department Official Apologizes for Libya Remark
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley apologized for comments he made last month about Muammar Qaddafi when asked about the Libyan leader's call for a jihad on Switzerland, Bloomberg reported.
Crowley told reporters in Washington today he understood the remarks were viewed as a personal attack. "The comments do not reflect U.S. policy and were not intended to offend," he said. "I regret that my comments have become an obstacle to further progress in our bilateral relationship."
The apology reflected the changed nature of ties with Libya, which the U.S. once branded as a terrorist state. Now U.S. companies are competing for energy and infrastructure projects in Libya, which holds Africa's largest crude oil reserves.
Crowley said he and the U.S. assistant secretary of state in charge of Middle East affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, met with Libya's ambassador to Washington, Ali Aujali, and explained the same to him on March 5. Feltman will travel to Tripoli last week, Crowley said.
Crowley on Feb. 26 was asked about Qaddafi's appeal for jihad against Switzerland following the passage of a ban on minarets by the European nation.
At the time, Crowley said Qaddafi's remarks reminded him of the Libyan leader's long speech at the United Nations in September in which he ripped pages from the UN Charter. Crowley likened Qaddafi's talk of jihad to the speech, calling it "lots of words and lots of papers flying all over the place, not necessarily a lot of sense," he said.
Libya's National Oil Corp. said last week the work of U.S. energy companies in the North African country might be "negatively" affected because of the strained diplomatic ties with Washington over the spokesman's comments.
Last week, Crowley said the "offhand comment" was not meant as a "personal attack." Today was the first time he issued a formal apology.