Lawmaker considers Libya trip

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Lawmaker considers Libya trip

A senior Korean lawmaker and brother of President Lee Myung-bak is considering visiting Libya this week, a source said yesterday, a trip that could help defuse a diplomatic row plaguing relations between the two countries for months.

Representative Lee Sang-deuk of the ruling Grand National Party is considering the visit to attend the dedication ceremony for a Korean-built hotel in Libya, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

But widespread views are that Lee could also meet with Libyan officials in an effort to resolve the dispute that was touched off over alleged espionage by a Korean intelligence agent.

The lawmaker was expected to depart yesterday if he decided to go, the source said.

The row began earlier this year after Libya accused an agent of Seoul's main spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, of attempting to collect information on Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi and the country's weapons systems.

In an apparent show of anger, Libya expelled the NIS agent in June and halted operations of its economic cooperation bureau in Seoul, which serves as a de facto embassy.

The African nation has also detained two Korean civilians on charges of violating the country's religion law.

In July, Rep. Lee visited Libya as a special envoy of President Lee Myung-bak in an effort to patch up the dispute.

The two countries have since held a series of fence-mending talks, and officials in Seoul have said the dispute was heading toward resolution.

Last Thursday, Korea's acting Foreign Minister Shin Kak-soo held talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Mohammed Kusa on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Shin asked Libya to expedite the legal process for the two detained civilians.

In response, the Libyan foreign minister said he would review the request after returning home, ministry officials said.

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