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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is the usual hypocrisy of Western countries to label someone a terrorist and then declare them a friend when it suits them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As Churchill once said: "It is better to jaw-jaw, than to war-war."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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