Delegates report ‘progress’ in Libya

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Delegates report ‘progress’ in Libya

A South Korean delegation that was in Libya to clear espionage allegations is scheduled to return home this weekend after making “some progress” in the talks, the Korean Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The delegation, comprised of officials from the National Intelligence Service, made progress “in narrowing their differences” with Libyan counterparts, a ministry official said.

“There are still some unresolved issues,” he said. “Both sides agreed to work toward resolving them as quickly and as smoothly as possible. We’ll determine the next course of action after they return.”

An intelligence agent based at the South Korean embassy in Libya was expelled from the country in June on espionage charges, accused of trying to collect information about the Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi and his family, as well as Libya’s weapons systems and North Korean workers there.

Angry at Seoul’s protests, Libya shut its economic cooperation bureau in Seoul, which served as a de facto embassy. Consular operations, including visa issuance, remain suspended.

A ministry official said earlier this week that Libya demanded an apology for the agent’s activities. The official said NIS representatives were prepared to offer one, but they were also trying to explain to Libya that tracking North Koreans overseas is a routine procedure for South Korean agents.

A South Korean missionary and a farmer have also been detained on charges of violating Libya’s religious law. Foreign Ministry officials have said their arrests are unrelated to the espionage case, but diplomatic sources told Yonhap News Agency that Koo and Jeon were nabbed during a Libyan “witch hunt” targeting South Koreans after the agent’s arrest.

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