TRIPOLI, Libya — Setting aside decades of acrimony over Tripoli's sponsorship of terrorism, British Prime Minister Tony Blair chatted with Col. Moammar Kadafi on Thursday and said the Libyan leader could be an important partner in the war against that scourge.
"We are showing by our engagement with Libya today that it is possible for countries in the Arab world to work with the United States and the U.K. to defeat the common enemy of extremist fanatical terrorism driven by Al Qaeda," he said.
Without giving details, Blair said Britain would offer a "new military relationship" to a country that was long considered a pariah and once armed Britain's foe, the Irish Republican Army.
Blair was the first British leader to meet with Kadafi since the Libyan seized power in 1969.
The two men smiled and shook hands, then settled into low chairs inside Kadafi's tent in the desert outside Tripoli.
After their meeting, Blair praised Libya's progress in dismantling its arms programs.
Britain has a history of grievances with Kadafi, and Libya was implicated in the 1988 bombing of a Pam Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.
Kadafi didn't speak after the meeting, but Foreign Minister Mohammed Abderrahmane Chalgam said that Al Qaeda terrorists "are the real obstacle against our progress. They are against our security. They are against women. They are against the new culture. They are against political moderation, against any change in the region."