Rice to Welcome Qaddafi to War on Terror as Ties Grow

“My fear is this is a huge victory for Qaddafi, and he will interpret it as a green light to continue stifling dissent,” Abrahams said of Rice’s visit.

Bloomberg | Sep 4, 2008

By Viola Gienger

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to travel to North Africa tomorrow to welcome an unlikely ally to the U.S. fight against terrorism: Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

For most of Qaddafi’s 39 years in power, the U.S. listed Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and banned American companies from doing business there.

Now the country is sharing intelligence with the U.S. about the North African activities of al-Qaeda, the Islamic militants behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And U.S. energy, telecommunications and construction companies are vying for billions of dollars in contracts tied to expanded oil production in Libya, which has 3.4 percent of the world’s proven reserves.

Qaddafi’s help on intelligence matters has been “exemplary,” said Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, whose negotiations with Libya paved the way for Rice’s visit. “One of the benefits of working with Libya in this area over the last several years is that we’ve been able to expand this kind of cooperation,” he added in an interview.

Rice arrived in Portugal today, her first stop on the planned five-country tour that also includes Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

Portugal Stop

It’s her second trip to Portugal after a visit last year to attend a meeting of the Quartet of nations backing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Portugal last year held the rotating presidency of the European Union, a position now occupied by France.

She’s due to meet in Lisbon with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates and Foreign Minister Luis Amado before flying on tomorrow to Tripoli.

Rice’s Libya visit caps a seven-year thaw and marks a turnabout for Qaddafi, who squeezed American business and military operations out after his 1969 coup. The State Department touts the rapprochement as an example of what Iran and North Korea might enjoy should they follow suit.

Rice, 53, wasn’t born the last time a U.S. secretary of state — John Foster Dulles — went to Libya, in 1953. Qaddafi, 66, cited warmer relations with the U.S. on Sept. 1, during the holiday celebrating the anniversary of his coup.

“We were not seeking necessarily a friendship,” Qaddafi said, according to the state-run news service JANA. “What’s important is to establish relations devoid of aggression, the terror, wars, explosions and raids.”

Oil Reserves

Libya’s control over the largest oil reserves in Africa, and its location on the Mediterranean coast, just east of the Maghreb region of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, grants it strategic importance to the U.S. and Europe. Libya also shares a border with volatile Sudan and Chad.

The U.S. is negotiating a military cooperation accord with Libya and says the country is helping stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

Al-Qaeda consolidated Islamist fighters in Algeria and Libya in the past two years under the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, or AQIM. In November, al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urged his fighters to topple Qaddafi, excoriating his decisions to renounce terrorism and shun nuclear and chemical weapons.

Libya took a seat on the United Nations Security Council this year and has backed the U.S. drive to penalize Iran for enriching uranium. Iran says it is trying to produce nuclear power; the U.S. and other countries say it’s more likely developing a nuclear weapon.

Improving Relations

Libya has “been working fairly diligently” on improving relations, said Stan Marcuss, a partner in Washington for the international trade group at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP. “They are seen in much of that part of the world as doing the bidding of the United States.”

Marcuss, who has advised companies on dealing with Libya, added that the Libyans may want to buy aircraft and related equipment to help patrol their borders.

As U.S. officials court Qaddafi, they’ve said little about the regime’s suppression of its own people beyond annual government reports citing its “authoritarian” rule and “poor” record on human rights.

Libya holds political prisoners, torture is widespread and the government allows almost no free press or assembly, said Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York.

Qaddafi Victory

“My fear is this is a huge victory for Qaddafi, and he will interpret it as a green light to continue stifling dissent,” Abrahams said of Rice’s visit.

Qaddafi once harbored high aspirations as a leader of the Arab world, said David Mack, a diplomatic interpreter for the U.S. ambassador in Libya when he first met the colonel after the coup.

“He thought that Libya was going to be the center for Arab unity, and that he was going to be a very prominent world leader,” said Mack, later a deputy assistant secretary of state.

Instead, Qaddafi became an international pariah. The U.S. designated Libya as a sponsor of terrorism in 1979, saying it supported international terrorist groups and subverted moderate Arab and African governments.

Tensions with the U.S. came to a head with the 1986 bombing of a nightclub in Berlin frequented by U.S. soldiers, two of whom died in the attack. The U.S. blamed Libya and retaliated with an air assault on Tripoli. Two years later came the Pan Am bombing, which killed 270 people.

Bombing Compensation

After long denying involvement, Libya took responsibility in 2003 for the actions of an agent in the bombing and offered $2.7 billion in compensation.

U.S. and Libyan officials sealed Qaddafi’s comeback last month with an agreement for Libya’s government to finish paying legal claims by families in Libyan-linked attacks. The accord also was aimed at ending lawsuits that threatened Libyan assets.

Rice is going to Tripoli even though Libya hasn’t yet paid into a planned $800 million settlement fund.

Better relations promise to speed growth in trade, said David Goldwyn, executive director of the U.S.-Libya Business Association in Washington.

In the energy industry, U.S. companies may help Libya extract more oil from existing wells, the same specialty that proved profitable in Russia in the past 10 years, Goldwyn said.

“To me, it’s been very unnatural for us not to have developed a full diplomatic relationship,” said Mack, now chairman of the U.S.-Libya business group. “It only gives us additional tools for pursuing our interests.”

Related

Libya Shedding Pariah Tag, But Rights Abuses Continue

Libya Takes UN Security Council Helm

One response to “Rice to Welcome Qaddafi to War on Terror as Ties Grow

  1. …and on August first guess who came tio Dinner ? Why, that nice Mr Putin and the Boss of Gazprom Mr A Millar who signed up some nice deals, wrote off the Libyan debts (which the General was never, ever going to pay).

    “Libya holds political prisoners, torture is widespread and the government allows almost no free press or assembly, said Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York.”

    HRW are a bunch of lying fuckers.Soros funded shit stirrers.

    That nice General Gaddaffi called “Leeeezza” some very nasty things on al Jazeeera recently which should not be used in public but did suggest the black whore was peddling her mutton…his lissome bodyguards will no doubt take care of her if she takes a swing at him.

    Being a shrewd man he will stitch a deal or three up with Uncle Sam … but once again Mr Putin is in the door like a well trained sewer rat.

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