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U.S. Agencies Ramp Up Science, Technical Collaboration in Libya

Projects under way in seismology, disease surveillance, solar technology

Washington -- A year after renewal of U.S.-Libyan diplomatic relations, scientists from technical agencies in both nations are moving forward on a range of collaborations.

Activities include health care delivery, water management, seismic monitoring, solar power technology and science education. Nearly four years after Libya’s historic renunciation of weapons of mass destruction, the United States also is preparing to negotiate a framework science and technology cooperation agreement with Libya to facilitate new and ongoing collaborations.

The first collaboration took place March 29, 2006, when a NASA-led science expedition traveled to Tripoli, Libya, and then the Sahara to witness and study a total solar eclipse with Libyan scientists and other researchers from across the globe.

Libya’s efforts “to build goodwill, demonstrate its commitment to join the international community, and join in the fight against terrorism encouraged the United States to collaborate with Tripoli on science and technology matters,” said Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, in a statement read during the September 20 premiere of a film about the collaboration.

NASA and the State Department funded and coordinated the expedition.

“I am happy that [U.S.-Libyan] relations have moved, maybe not very fast, but steadily,” Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali, charge d’affairs at the Libyan Embassy in Washington, said at the premiere. “Technical cooperation is very important. Libya is a small country -- infrastructure is important, education is important, communication is important. American people, American companies, American media also, they can play a very important role.”


In 2006, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Center for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control of the Libyan General People’s Committee for Health and the Environment signed a letter of intent to cooperate. That agreement resulted in a $1 million grant to enhance Libya’s public health system to prepare it for possible outbreaks of pandemic flu or another infectious disease.

In 2007, Jane Coury, Health and Human Services program officer for the pandemic influenza grant, told USINFO that Libya sought and received a $250,000 supplemental grant to continue strengthening its public health infrastructure.

The elements of such an infrastructure, Coury said, include a disease surveillance system, staff members trained in epidemiology and surveillance, a good laboratory system to test specimens and a good data system for feeding local information to top health officials.

“We’re soon going to have Centers for Disease Control staff assigned to do global disease detection [at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3] in Cairo [Egypt], and they will provide technical assistance on site in Libya,” Coury added. (See related article.)

To help Libya develop clean sources of power generation, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is sending a team of experts from its National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado to collaborate on concentrating solar power.

Many power plants use fossil fuels as a heat source to boil water and generate steam that rotates a large turbine that activates a generator that produces electricity. Concentrated solar power systems use mirrors that focus the sun to heat liquids to produce steam.

“Where humidity is relatively low and there are lots of sunny days, concentrated solar is an effective technology for producing energy,” John Mizroch, principal deputy assistant secretary at DOE for energy efficiency and renewable energy, told USINFO, “and Libya is a very suitable country for these technologies.”

The Libyans, he added, would like to use the technology for power generation and water desalination.


In the exploratory stage is a project involving the Libyan Center for Remote Sensing and Space Science in Tripoli and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to upgrade one of the seismic stations in Libya’s national network for inclusion in the U.S. Global Seismographic Network (GSN).

The global network, with 128 seismographic stations in more than 80 countries on all continents, provides coverage for earthquake monitoring and worldwide reporting and research and monitors nuclear explosions worldwide.

“The GSN would benefit from having a station in Northern Africa,” William Leith, USGS associate coordinator for the GSN, told USINFO, “and Libya is almost perfectly situated in terms of its geographic location to improve the network’s coverage.”

Potential areas of cooperation, said Michael Foose, USGS regional specialist for Africa and the Middle East, include “remote sensing as applied to monitoring land use and land change, and we have the capacity to work with them to develop tools to monitor their coastal environment” and the nation’s southern regions.

In another area of science, researchers worldwide -- with help from the United Nations and NASA -- are working with Libyan scientists through the International Heliophysical Year 2007, an international program to unite the science community from all U.N. member states to study the Earth, the sun and the solar system as one system.

Through the program, said Joseph Davila, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland who was part of NASA’s Libyan solar eclipse expedition, scientists from research institutions in the United States, Switzerland and many other countries collaborate with Libyan and other scientists to place space physics and geophysics instruments in local institutions.

The instruments will become part of global observatories to measure things like Earth’s ionosphere and solar physics.

“During the coming year, there will be two more installations of instruments in Libya,” Davila said, “and that follows on successful installations we already have in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.”

More information about the NASA-State Department solar eclipse expedition to Libya is available on the NASA Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

... Payvand News - 10/5/07 ... --

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