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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
UK-Libya: Should relations be restored?
The first British minister to visit Libya in almost 20 years has held talks with long-serving leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien's three-day visit is aimed at securing Colonel Gaddafi's support for the international war on terror and opposition to the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The two countries also have an economic interest in boosting relations after years of tension.

The US has described Libya as being part of an "axis of evil". But Mr O'Brien said Libya had shown its desire to move from "pariah" to a state complying with international law by handing over the Lockerbie bomb suspects.

Do you think that relations should be restored between the two countries? Has Libya done enough to be accepted back into the international community? Who has more to gain by improving relations?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I think it is time to let bygones be bygones between the UK and Libya. It seems obvious to me that Gaddafi has changed, as he is the only Arab leader to publicly say that Israel should have a spot on the Arab League summit. He wants the region to have peace, and (most importantly for the Yanks) recognises Israel's right to exist. Surely that is a good thing for all concerned?
Booker T. Huffman, England, UK

After thirty-three years in power he is a wily bird to deal with

John Martin Nichols, France
I am surprised by some contributors who rather naively assume that the Libyan leader may be manipulated to Western advantage. After thirty-three years in power he is a wily bird to deal with, always fervent in his faith, but there is of course no reason now not to attempt to set up equitable discussions on a number of wide ranging topics!
John Martin Nichols, France

This government has negotiated with NI terrorist groups so I think it's about time it started talking to Libya, the former allies of the republican movement.
Dave, England

It is ironic that at the same time as the US and UK are considering bombing Iraq, that they are also trying to renew their relationship with a man described in the past as a monster and previously the victim of US bombing. The most pressing reason that I can see for restoring relations with Gaddafi is firstly both America and Britain need to widen the base of their trading partners to help sagging economies, and second, if they can't use Saudi Arabia as a jumping off point in the Mid-east, Gaddafi is just eccentric enough to let them use Libya - for a price, of course! I don't see any improvement in human rights in Libya so there has to be an ulterior motive.
Susan, USA/UK

No progress can be made between the Western and Middle East nations by living in the past

Gerrard Fagbemi, London, UK
Yes, Britain should restore relations with Libya. No progress can be made between the Western and Middle East nations by living in the past - just look at the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, not to mention America's determination to attack Iraq regardless of serious international opposition.
Gerrard Fagbemi, London, UK

Sure give him a chance. What exactly does having relations mean? That we trade with them? That we discuss human rights issues, etc? What harm can it do? The American embargo on Cuba has done no good for the Cuban people and that Castro is still in power there. Maybe things would be better for the Cubans if Americans could freely trade and interact with them.

So, Libya abuses human rights, so do many other countries, including China and we have relations with them. I don't believe in the death penalty and I live in a state where it's illegal, but I trade with other states that have it. How would the US feel if Japan, Latin America, and Europe stopped trading with us because we have the death penalty? If the Libyan government supports terrorism then we should punish those in power not the people.
Ken, USA

I am sure that money is involved with the soft sell on relaxation of policies on Libya. We must remember it wasn't so long ago that Gaddafi was being named as an exporter of terrorism etc. Money talks and morality walks.
Mike, USA

Why not ask whether it is in the interest of my country, Libya, to fully engage with an imperialist power that time and again has tried to undermine the very real achievements of the Libyan revolution? From support for the murderous US bombing in 1986 to the attempted assassination of Gaddafi, the UK has time and time again attempted to terrorise my people into renouncing the very political and economic system that has brought them success. Although we have done stupid and immoral things in the past (such as support Idi Amin and the RUF in Sierra Leone), we have also helped set an example in the fields of democracy, human rights and true socialist development.
Essi al-Hamdi, USA/Libya

The British Government is a fool

Jake, Virginia, United States
The British Government is a fool if they think Gaddafi is now their friend. This man has not changed, only he was put in his place when bombed by the US in the 80s.
Jake, Virginia, United States

The only reason diplomatic relations were broken by the UK is because the US told it to. There is still no proof that Libya was involved in the Pan Am bombing. This would be a great opportunity to make the world a safer place as long as Dubya doesnt do anything stupid like make an "axis of evil" speech again ruining any good work done by the rest of the world.
vish, UK

By all means, give the Libyans a chance to join the world community. But keep sight of the facts that their regime is not democratic nor can a leopard change its spots.
Bob, South Korea

He is on his knees begging to remain president

Muhammad Zagoozi, Libya
The Libyan dictator must not be given a chance to apologise or compensate. He must be removed from power because he has persecuted his own people and now he is on his knees begging to remain president. He must be removed, even before Saddam.
Muhammad Zagoozi, Libya

Great to see all the warmongers once again wanting yet more death and destruction, safe from their living rooms and armchairs. If you really desperately want war so much then go sign up for the army and volunteer to be sent onto the front line, on foot. Then see how great an idea it is.
Anon, UK

It is the usual hypocrisy of Western countries to label someone a terrorist and then declare them a friend when it suits them.
Latha, India

With the threat of war between the US and Iraq ever present we should proceed cautiously into Libya. Gaddafi's motives are governed by the perceived outcome of such a conflict. He will be looking for our support to strengthen his position. We are right to engage Libya at this time but we must be sure that we are not cutting a rod for our own backs.
Ian McKenzie, Scotland

Does this sudden new friendship with Libya have anything to do with the gas pipeline they are planning to build across the Mediterranean? Clearly my car isn't the only thing driven by oil.
James, UK

Every ostracised nation has the right to return to the fold

Xiaole Bai, China
The action taken by the British government with regard to the Gaddafi regime is mainly driven by the potential benefit to Britain itself. Although I believe every ostracised nation has the right to return to the fold of the international community, this nation should make its choice between good and evil.
Xiaole Bai, China

Gaddafi's numerous mistakes and victories are a result of his fervent belief in his religion, in his politics and in his country. The question is whether the present day shallow and image-motivated politicians of Europe can handle his zeal.
Nick, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I think that it's time for the world to accept Libya back into the international arena. Having worked in Libya for more than five years it seems that people enjoy a very high standing of living and are by and large friendly people living in a very polite and secure society.
Paulo Conti, Italy

Both Libya and the major European countries will have much to gain from improved relations

Aniket Erande, UK/ India
I am very happy to note that Britain has taken positive steps to improve relations with Libya. Having spent a better part of my childhood there, I am naturally biased in favour of the country. Despite the regime's nebulous track record, in my opinion Libya will be a far more reliable ally of Europe than perhaps the more capricious states of the Middle East. Given its proximity to Europe and historical European influence, both Libya and the major European countries will have much to gain from improved relations.
Aniket Erande, UK/ India

If it can be clearly determined that this government is absolutely out of the business of terrorism, then I think it is right to move towards normalisation of relations.
Joseph, New England, USA

No, I think this would send the wrong message. The fact that he's still there after twenty years is kind of a sad commentary in itself.
Tom, USA

Gaddafi has abandoned international terrorism but still oppresses his own people. If closer relations with Libya will result in pressure being applied on the Libyan leader to improve human rights and end corruption then it's welcome. Otherwise it just vindicates all those who believe the USA and UK support dictators if they abide by their terms
Mansour ben Salim, UK

A challenge to Mansour ben Salim, U.K. I just want you to know that that guy you consider a villain has invested his power, money to mention but a few, to his people. They like him that's why he is there up to now. If you do right to your people they will learn to endure you even though your rule is not democratic. Have consideration for your people then let others come next, and that's what he stands for. We hope that western countries are more friend than a foe. Libya stands for achievement - that's why it's remained isolated but stable.
Regie, USA

Yes, I think Libya does deserve another chance. One of the best ways to fight terrorism is to show these rogue countries that if they choose to improve the lives of their people and act like a responsible country, the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects that come with being labelled a nation of repression and terrorism.
Chad O'Dell, USA

What is happening now is very magnanimous of the Libyan regime

Alan Salisbury, England
Libya has always been an easy target for the US. I had just left Libya when President Reagan chose to bomb Tripoli in retaliation for the killing of US troops in Germany. A subsequent investigation showed it was an entirely different group, not connected with Libya, which had carried out the atrocity. Col Gaddafi lost a daughter in that raid.

I can understand the relatives of the victims of the Pan Am flight having to find somebody to blame but the Lockerbie trial was badly flawed and I will never believe that the Libyan Government was responsible. I feel that what is happening now is very magnanimous of the Libyan regime and I very much hope we can build upon this new initiative.
Alan Salisbury, England

People who say that it is wrong to try to bring Libya into the global community ought to check their homes carefully for Japanese goods (Second World War atrocities); German goods (the Blitz); US goods (the War of Independence); I could go on. There has to come a time when a line is drawn under events, however painful that might be. Gaddafi the friend is easier to control that Gaddafi the fiend.
Philip, England

This is the wrong time to be currying favour with veteran sponsors of terrorism

David, USA/UK
This is precisely the wrong time to be currying favour with veteran sponsors of terrorism like Gaddafi. There is a new world order now, as Saddam is about to find out. Gaddafi should be next.
David, USA/UK

I think that Gaddafi has finally learned how to behave. He has suffered nothing but rebuffs over the last 20 years, from the humiliation of his army in Chad, to the punitive US air raids back in the 1980s. I think he will now be just like any other tinpot dictator, happy to stay within his own borders and oppress his own. Since most of the world is ruled by dictators, there is no more point in singling him out anymore.
Tom Byrne, USA

As Churchill once said: "It is better to jaw-jaw, than to war-war."
David Gatenby, Germany

As soon as Libya apologises and submits for trial (as it did with Lockerbie) the murderers of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, then Britain may start to think about normal relations. Not until then, however.
Tim, Geneva, Switzerland

It is a great and important step that has been taken by Britain. I am certain that all Libyans will recognise this. Further steps should be achieved to make the relations between the two countries more solid and valid.
Abdelbaset Elyagoubi, Canada

Every country has breached international law or human rights at some time or another, including the UK. Some of our partners and allies, including some Commonwealth members still continue to do so today. If Libya really has changed, then to continue to ostracise it would be hypocritical.
MM Zaman, UK/US

Now is the time to leave the past behind

Ahmed Bishari, Libya
Libya and the UK both have long term mutual interests. Now is the time to leave the past behind and look towards the future. I sincerely hope that both countries can overcome their differences and work for the common good of their people. Libya needs the UK just as much as the UK needs Libya.
Ahmed Bishari, Libya

I recently worked in Libya for over two years. Everyone has a good basic standard of living. Colonel Gaddafi may have done some stupid things in his younger days, but he certainly should be readmitted into the world community! The warm and friendly people of his country deserve to benefit from this.
David Worsley, Norway

As a Brit I am very disappointed that our government is taking this action. Gaddafi's regime has been widely linked to the murder of friends of mine in the Pan Am terrorist attack. He has funded terrorism and publicly supported terrorist groups. Are we about to make the mistake Neville Chamberlain made with Adolf Hitler?
Paul, USA/UK

It seems like Gaddafi has been trying to make himself appear like the leader of a civilised country. I don't know if this is just spin for the masses, but from where I sit it looks like the man is trying to shed himself of the terrorist supporter image. I like what I see.
Curtis Tindell, Fort Worth, USA

Libya could potentially be a powerful force for good

Stuart, UK
Though the Libyan regime has many faults, their record on human rights is nowhere near as bad as that of our so-called friends in the Gulf like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Nor is there any evidence of recent state involvement in terrorist activities. Libya could potentially be a powerful force for good, not just in the Middle East but in several of the African hotspots. We should not let the American longing for vengeance on a country which has often thumbed its nose at the West prevent us from developing such a potentially useful ally.
Stuart, UK

I think it's time to give Libya a chance. The country may have been responsible for terrorist activities in the past, but it would be foolish to permanently put a country out to pasture because of it. Libya has paid a price for terror before and has been relatively quiet since then. I think it's time countries like Great Britain and the United States, at the very least, see what Libya has to offer.
Dave S, USA

All too often it seems countries are ostracised for years by the international community for isolated incidents, or actions perpetrated by a few leaders. For the world to reach some kind of harmony, everyone must be given some chance at repentance and re-acceptance back into the international community. Recent world events have shown that the alternative is bloodshed and chaos.
Jim, UK

Colonel Gaddafi has been a key player in Middle East affairs ever since he took power in Libya. Securing his support, irrespective of the "axis of evil" tag, would be crucial in the war against international terrorism. We certainly have more to gain by improving relations, and restoring relations would encourage Libya to do more towards being accepted back into the international community. An opportunity that should not be missed.
Graham Rodhouse, The Netherlands.

See also:

07 Aug 02 | UK Politics
27 Jul 02 | UK Politics
24 Jun 02 | Middle East
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