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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Was Tony Blair right to visit Libya?

Tony Blair has become the first British prime minister to visit Libya in more than sixty years.

Mr Blair shook hands with Colonel Gaddafi in a tent near Tripoli.

He said the Libyan leader acknowledged he had common cause with the West in fighting al-Qaeda extremism.

The British prime minister's visit has been criticised by some politicians and relatives of some of the 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing.

Was Prime Minister Blair right to visit Colonel Gaddafi? Is it time to move on from the past?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of the opinions we have received:

This topic was suggested by Nick Storr, UK:
I would like to know people's views on Tony Blair's visit to Libya. Is it the right thing to do?

Whatever happened to forgive and forget? Germany has now been welcomed back into society. What Gadaffi's regime did in the past was very wrong, but surely it is better to bring them in from the cold and have them as an ally than an enemy. Their country may be weaker than any in the West but we cannot fight terrorism with anything other than dialogue.
Andy Davis, Manchester, England

I will not be surprised if the start of a new relationship is closely followed by the purchase of cheap oil and the sale of expensive arms
A. Edmondson, UK
I would like to think that Mr Blair went to Libya in order to establish relations with a country that has been isolated for quite some time. That he went there to include and therefore to avoid conflict, and that there was nothing more to it. Unfortunately that would surprise me a lot: but I will not be surprised if the start of a new relationship is closely followed by the purchase of cheap oil and the sale of expensive arms.
A. Edmondson, UK

Bravo! You are a real gentleman, Mr Prime Minister. The world will be much better and safer if you can apply the art of diplomacy in an effective and productive way rather than engaging in an arrogant and demanding way of solving international conflicts. That's the way a leader should be and you will earn a lot of respect from the international community.
Kamarudin, Malaysia

Mr. Blair was totally wrong by shaking the murdering hands of Gaddafi. As Libyans, we suffered for about 35 years from his military dictatorship regime. I've got to say to Mr. Blair - shame, shame, shame. I understand Mr Blair is visiting Libya to get some deals in the Libyan oil projects, but do you think it is good thing to get the oil money with the blood of Gaddafi's victims?
Taha Omar, Toronto, CANADA

Right? Yes. But it is a move with all of the hallmarks of statesmanship compromised by enthusiasm for capricious and ill advised foreign policy. Almost pungent in its cynicism - and likely to be seen as such. The sincere and balanced interventions of the true statesman - desperately needed - remain wanting. Where is he (and the UK) in leading the pan-European response to the root cause of terrorism and power imbalance in the Middle East? Window dressing in a tent in Tripoli (if you can do that in a tent).
Robert, Melbourne Australia

Every step that is made towards promoting peace and reconciliation should be welcomed
Mansour Seraj, Amran, Yemen
However Mr Blair may be criticised, I personally believe that the amount of criticism won't be as much as it's been during the past year for blindly following Bush. Rather, every step that is made towards promoting peace and reconciliation should be welcomed.
Mansour Seraj, Amran, Yemen

Better than bombing it.
Dan, UK

Is it really worth to perpetrate the families of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster with such an approach aiming to establish good relations with the man who has the biggest share of responsibility on the issue under the cover of good intentions of building peace between nations. I think nobody including prime minister will believe that lie. It is all for the natural gas and oil reserves which Libya sits on.
Selim Turkcan, Ankara, Turkey

I thank Mr Blair for visiting the most suspected country for supporting terrorists. This visit may pursue Gaddafi not to support such evil. I believe that it is the right time. Thank you again Mr Blair.
Abebe Shimelis, Addis Ababa

What a disgrace.
S Volkmann, Samoa

For once Mr Blair is trying something right, for whatever reason. It's only right to forgive and to move with the times. Put old stuff behind.
Alex Keel, London, UK

To: Alex Keel, London, UK. I don't call a couple of hundred dead UK citizens, a plane full of American citizens and a catalogue of arms supply to the Irish terrorists who murdered hundreds "Old Stuff" that should be put behind or forgiven and forgotten. You don't forget victims of terrorism and you don't forgive their murderers.
Rick, UK

So much for the Blair ethical government. The next thing is we will be buying Libyan oil, training their troops and selling them everything else. Some Prime Ministers will do anything to be in the limelight.
Lester Stenner, Weston super Mare, UK

Yes he was. Talk to these people - nothing is ever achieved by ignoring them.
John Brown, Portsmouth, UK

I think the people of Scotland should answer the question of whether Blair should go, hat in hand, to pay homage to Colonel Moammar "Lockerbie" Ghaddafi.
Des, US

Forget principles Mr Blair, take the money
Paul, Gloucester, England

Economically it was a master stroke for the UK leaving the rest of Europe behind. But politically, shaking hands with the man who gave Idi Amin asylum, who supports Mugabe and who is responsible for untold murders, was a disaster. Forget principles Mr Blair, take the money.
Paul, Gloucester, England

For Iraq, Tony's argument, when he was running out of WMD steam, was bringing human rights to an oppressed nation. For Libya, the human rights argument is now replaced....with the old WMD argument. I think Tony Blair is giving even politicians a bad name. What a slippery man!
Ronald Vopel, Brussels, BE

Don't pay your tax, and you get locked up. Shoot down a passenger jet, and you get 'afternoon tea' with Tony.
James, Dorset, UK

It just shows that once a Dictator becomes a PUPPET of the US and UK, he can MURDER his people and get away with it. Where is the FREEDOM of the new world order? Hypocrites!

Bridging the gap between our two nations after years of hostilities can only be interpreted as progress. I applaud Tony for taking this step. Any unity in the fight against terror should be welcome by all.
Zoe, Cambridge

I suspect that Tony Blair's visit may not have happened at all if Libya's main export was broccoli
Tim Casey, San Antonio, USA

I believe it was a positive move, even though I suspect that Tony Blair's visit may not have happened at all if Libya's main export was broccoli. It wasn't quite in the same sentence, but the mention of his visit was followed by an announcement that they had also signed a multi billion dollar contract with Libya's oil industry. Hum!
Tim Casey, San Antonio, USA

Well done Tony! Its good to see British interests staking a claim in new Libyan business before the Americans cherry-pick the best bits.
P. Martin, UK

Yes, I believe so and it will have very fruitful results for our commerce. I wish that a lot of countries in the world would take a hint from this trip and forget about their unnecessary feuds that hinder progress and peace.
Saqib Khan, UK

I think he was right to have visited Libya because it serves as a step in restoring good relations. Hard feeling harboured among member countries if not checked can increase the issue of terrorism which has become a headache for the whole world. Tony Blair's visit can erase any negative ideas Libyans have about Britain, because they will now know that the Prime Minister cares about them.
Fauzia Muntari, Ghana

I don't think Blair was wrong visiting Libya and Gaddafi in particular. He and Gaddafi are only showing the world that each had learnt veritable lessons from the Iraq saga, though from different perspectives. Blair from the consequences of his decision to tag along American pressure; Gaddafi from what happens to a dictator who lacks sound judgment regarding the power balance in World Politics.
Joshua, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

I would rather see the prime minister entering another country to make peace than war, no matter how dubious the Libyan leader appears to be. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts because we know we cannot trust the intelligence provided by our security organisations Iraq proved that.
Dion, Manchester

One has to laugh at the narrow-minded attitudes of the British population!! I know, let's throw some bombs at missiles at Gaddafi and then really give the population and the politicians of this country something to moan about. Well done Tony, I think you are showing George Bush a thing or two here about proper international diplomacy! Keep up the good work!
Neil Fellowes, Great Yarmouth, UK

Everyone remembers Lockerbie, but how many people remember that Gaddafi was also the IRA's main source of arms? I welcome Gaddafi's apparent change of policy, but won't be visiting Libya on holiday while he remains in power.
Peter, UK

This is a better way than using force or arming opposition groups to overthrow unconventional regimes
Arif Sayed, Dubai

While I am not an admirer of Tony Blair, I think that he has done the right thing. Yes, Gaddafi was wrong in his ways but let's give him a chance to come right. This is a better way than using force or arming opposition groups to overthrow unconventional regimes. There is enough blood and ill-will in the world today. If this works who knows may be the North Korean leader, the Cuban leader etc will follow suit. Here is hoping that we are entering a new phase of world diplomacy and a New world Order.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

There's never a 'right' time for anything, this gesture was a positive one.
Jim, UK

Our Glorious Leader Blair will do anything for a good photo-shoot. Going to Libya was clearly morally and ethically wrong, but when have those virtues been stumbling blocks to our PM.
Mike Hall, Chipping Norton

Prime Minister Blair was right to go Libya. In the fight against international terrorism we should accept all the help we can get - even from a former terrorist. If Gaddafi is sincere we have - in the worst case - one crook less to worry about.
Dirk, Essen, Germany

The visit of the British PM was a good gesture. Libya has denounced its role in the terrorists world and in its new stand could play a vital anti terror role in its transition.
Arun, Calcutta, India

It comes as a relief to the world at large. At last persuasion, negotiation and constructive dialogue have been given a chance. Tony has won this round.
Nkonge Felix, Lusaka, Zambia

This is all about money! It's got nothing to do with being a terrorist state or leader. Libya has just proved the hypocrisy of superpowers. You call it compensation, I call it bribery and corruption!
Charles, Kenya

It was a good trip Tony made. And for Gaddafi he thinks its time to clean up the mess he has caused his own people before he gets weaker to handle anything.
Kay, Ghana

Very good he spoke to an important spiritual leader. Libya has much less human right violations than so-called friendly states like Saudi Arabia and most others not only in the area. Women are free to do everything in Libya, they are prohibited everything in Saudi Arabia. Gaddafi is a great personality who, today, regrets certain bad things of the past, welcome.
Udo Schuetz, Barcelona, Spain

History never stops repeating itself
Sanju, India
Tony Blair does not learn from his mistakes. No sooner has Gadaffi has given up his weapons Blair rewards him with, guess what, British Military support, also known as weapons. History never stops repeating itself.
Sanju, India

For once, I actually agree with Tony Blair. If Libya is showing signs of compromise then the west needs to acknowledge that. Otherwise, what is the point of the sanctions in the first place? We need to send the right message - if you are willing to work with us then we will work with you - it must be a two-way thing.
Karen, Southampton, England

Keeping in touch with your enemies enables you to know of their movements, to persuade them to be on your side and do profitable business together. People may use their sentimental "hearts" but countries must use their "heads". After WW2 the allied countries became enemies and the enemies became friends(!). It is just good business for a better future and there is no point in elaborating on oil matters.
Artur Freitas, Johannesburg, South Africa

Well done Mr Blair for giving Gaddafi a chance to be accepted in the international community - or, perhaps, is oil what attracts you?
Yousuf Ali, Casablanca, Morocco

Colonel Gaddafi has been a supporter of terrorism and trained terrorist rebels in Africa for years. He has admitted to causing the Lockerbie crash and he is the head of an oppressive regime. In many ways, he is like Saddam Hussein. But now, we ask ourselves, just because he has handed over his nuclear weapons to the UN, should he be forgiven and helped by British taxpayers? Blair has proved his hypocrisy in this War on Terror by supporting an oppressive agent of terrorism for reasons we shall never know (although they might have something to do with Libyan oil). British people, please open your eyes: you are being fooled by your so-called leader, and do something about it!
Devin Dunseith, Mbabane, Swaziland

I think it is disgraceful that Tony Blair should be visiting Libya. My father was killed in a plane crash in 2000 off the coast of Libya with 21 other people. The inquest said pilot error, the Libyan pilots were not qualified to fly such a large plane yet no on has been prosecuted and it has been brushed under the carpet.
Amahda P, Hampshire, UK

Whilst being no Fan of Tony Blair I find myself in agreement with his sentiment on this occasion, Gaddafi has complied with what was asked of him. If more of the Middle East took his stance then perhaps another conflict like Iraq could be avoided. I know Gaddafi committed some horrendous acts and he should not be forgiven for them but he could help avoid more of the same thing.
Phil, London

As a resident of Zimbabwe who watched incredulously the circus show progression of the Libyan dictator's battle bus as it traversed Africa en route to Durban, I find it incredible that Blair can fete this man with a visit, only months after he declared his support for Mugabe's rapacious policies, and as we watched him on television denouncing the 'evil white man' to a crowd of black Zimbabwean 'war veterans' in Zimbabwe's former grain basket area. How quickly such matters are forgotten for political and dare I say it, pre-election motives. Disgusted.
Anon, Harare, Zimbabwe

Prime Minister Blair made the right decision to visit Libya. This warm and high level relation with the west (by Libya) has sent a clear message to the terrorist - that Libya will now fight terrorism with the same vigour the US and UK are doing. Well done Blair, keep it up.
Jones M Ilukena, Lusaka, Zambia

Yes indeed Mr Blair was right to visit Libya because he knew that Gaddafi was sincere enough. Gaddafi is very clear and he does not like injustice. Long live Gaddafi - a man with real spirit of Africanism.
Majur Malou Majomgadol, Rumbek, Sudan

Give peace and freedom a chance. We support the Blair trip. The Arab world needs assistance to get out of backwardness.
Papa Magor, Dakar, Senegal

There should be no friendship with Libya while Gaddafi is in power.
Gordon Clarkson, Edinburgh, Scotland

This visit of Tony Blair to Libya came at the right time for economic gains to both countries. The issue still remains about the sincerity of Colonel Gaddafi in his role in the fight against terrorism worldwide though.
Eke Omoregbe George, Colindale, UK

There are murderers all over the world, each killing innocent people in the name of their own interpretation of what is right and proper. Before adopting a moral stance against them we should realise that our hands are not quite squeaky clean. We should also consider that we share the same world and the only way to achieve peace is via dialogue, compromise and mutual respect.
Paul Rowlands, UK

Of course. Tony Blair is always right.
Jerry Cullum, Alton, UK

I believe that Blair's visit was insensitive and ill timed. He should have allowed more time to elapse before it occurred, so that the world could see that Libya's actions matched up to his declared intentions. It seems that the potential commercial benefits to UK companies, may have, once again, clouded his judgement. The visit must be very upsetting to the families of the Lockerbie victims and the family of Yvonne Fletcher.
Sarah Thomas, Surbiton, UK

Dialogue is essential in order to breakdown barriers; this is the case in every sphere of life. And this case is no exception. But one is left wondering about spin, photo-opportunities, justification for the Iraq war by default, etc. "Moving on" (the latest Government phrase to excuse any shift or wholesale reversal of policy) is one thing, but one is left feeling suspicious about what is really going on here.
Terry, UK

Tony Blair is right in holding talks with Gaddafi. These simple diplomatic gestures encourage reforms. He should also make such trips to Zimbabwe.
Allehone Mulugeta, The Hague, The Netherlands

Gaddafi has lived up to his obligations as stipulated by Lockerbie trial. Also, his admission to and dismantling of his WMD program is a profound step in the right direction. Regarding terrorism, Gaddafi (Libya) has been clean and sober for the past 15 years. So, yes I believe Tony Blair did the right thing by visiting Colonel Gaddafi. There are times when we must forgive and move on. If a dictator wants to survive in today's world he best take heed of Colonel Gaddafi's example.
John Bensted, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

By the early 1960's the organisations that came to form the EEC then the EC formed from the previous hostile nations in Europe - it was through trade that wounds were healed, why shouldn't it work here?
Jonathan, Horsham

I wouldn't say that people who resent the Lockerbie bombing are "stubbornly holding a grudge", this seems massively simplistic. However it does seem like a step in the right direction to bring a rogue state back into the fold, however marginalised Gaddafi is in the Arab world. Keep you friends close and your enemies closer, seems the correct approach.
Godfrey Church, Yeovil, UK

The visit in itself was not wrong, the timing was seriously wrong
T Newman, Bournemouth UK
As such the visit in itself was not wrong, the timing was seriously wrong. I wonder how the people of Spain feel. Blair at a memorial service for the victims of a terrorist act and within 24 hours meeting the biggest supporter of terrorism ever. Amazing.
T Newman, Bournemouth UK

BAE and Shell are now about to sign lucrative contracts with Libya. Show's that Tony still puts business first
Ben Smith, London

This is fantastic news! Libya is a country with great economic potential that has sadly been wasted by years of political isolation. Recent political developments in Libya are very encouraging and Colonel Gaddafi really seems to have decided that it is in Libya's interests to cooperate with the international community and abandon any ideas of confrontation or terrorist activities. Welcome back Libya and best wishes to the Libyan people: Let's hope that you all profit from Libya's return to the International Community!
Anthony, Germany (UK)

Of course he's right, its important to make efforts to be on good terms with this once rogue nation. Why not be friends again, after all we are friendly with the French and Germans, Argentineans etc, we have had wars with all !
Paul Bowie, London, UK

Surely it is right to keep people like Gaddafi inside the fold than alienate him
Anon, UK
I am certainly not a fan of Tony Blair but surely it is right to keep people like Gaddafi inside the fold than alienate him. This way it is easier to monitor his actions and gain co-operation with regards to terrorism. The key surely is to not to be too naive about Gaddafi.
Anon, UK

Gaddafi, frightened by the war in Iraq, caved. He is doing exactly what Bush and Blair have said terrorist states must do - change. We must show other terrorist states that stopping their behaviour results in economic and diplomatic improvements.
Binny, London

Can he be trusted? After years of supporting terrorists, I don't think so. I cannot believe that Blair is so trusting after all this. Unless Gaddafi can prove that he is NOT supporting terrorist, then forget it. Gaddafi is only in it for what HE can gain, nothing else. What about his human rights abuse as well, is that forgotten?

Well done Tony, great job! This is an extraordinary achievement on behalf of the British government, and just as Mr. Blair said, we should not forget the past but we should, forge ahead with new diplomatic relationships.
Sam Plumb, Coventry, UK

Without a doubt. The world has to move forward. Col. Gaddafi is trying hard to resolve his country's problems. This cannot be done without help from the rest of the world. So lets forgive but not forget those killed.
W Cowell, Hove UK

Multi-million pound oil deal for British Oil Company Shell? Seems a bit more 'real' than the WMD Libya didn't have but has now promised not to develop. Blair's attempt to draw comparisons with how Iraq could have gone is a double-edged sword as it just re-confirms all the suspicions that the Iraq war was all about oil.
John Farmer, Henley-on-Thames, UK

We have to move forward for world peace and if this helps bring about peace then yes he should have gone.
MH, Berkshire

For heaven's sake, Blair visits a known advocate of terrorism and suddenly, UK firms are vying for business in Libya. How quickly the country forgets!
Harry Birkner, Darwen UK

The future is more important than the past
Ben sharp, London

Why Libya? Nothing to do with Shell and profits from gas exploration? I still can't believe that after all that's happened, anyone in Britain believes that Tony Blair has valid policies about anything. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya? Oil by any chance? This is a disgrace.
Richard, Birmingham, England

I think Gaddafi learned his lesson years ago, when the war machine that took him years to build was thrashed by tribesmen and nomads in Chad. I feel that he may finally be ready to behave like a responsible leader, and any attempt at reconciliation between a Western and a Middle Eastern nation will be a welcome one.
Tom Byrne, USA

Offering Gaddafi military help is going too far too soon
Madeline Cox, Mansfield, UK
While I applaud Tony Blair's attempts at diplomatic engagement rather than war I do think that offering Gaddafi military help is going too far too soon. Yes, let's have some shared trade and cultural exchanges but why the rush to re-arm someone who was until recently our sworn enemy?
Madeline Cox, Mansfield, UK

Surely it's just coincidence that Shell announced it had obtained rights to explore for oil off the Libyan coast just as Mr Blair shook hands with Mr Gaddafi?!
Ian, Rochester England

Will Tony Blair meet Robert Mugabe once he stops his misrule? I am simply amazed by the principles that politicians display - incidentally Nelson Mandela came in for quite some criticism for visiting Gaddafi by many western commentators. Oil was not a major consideration then but simply to thank Libya for standing by the black majority in South Africa. In this world morality plays second fiddle to vested interests.
Mwaura Kimani, Bournemouth

Those speaking against the visit just show that they refuse to move on from the past and that they are just stubbornly holding a grudge. How can you make peace if you do not accept peoples' change of direction? However, Blair and Bush probably only want to mend ties with Libya for other gains than what they will declare publicly - no change there then.

Yes he is right to go there. If this sort of dialogue had taken place with Iraq we could have avoided unnecessary conflict and blood shed. Provided the British government is ensuring that they can corroborate what Libya is saying then we should be talking instead of fighting where ever possible.
Matt G, Lower Stondon, UK

No, Gaddafi is another dictator equal, in my view, to Saddam Hussein. This just show the hypocrisy and the double standards applied to dictators with oil reserves willing to do business with the West (Saudi Arabia, Libya, Guinea etc..) and the unwilling ones (Syria, Iraq etc.). Meeting with someone like Gaddafi just shows how weak the arguments on the "war on terror" are.
JC Couderc, Spain

We need to promote peace in the world, not prolong enmity
Carolyn, Royston, UK
If the purpose of sanctions was to get Libya to do what they are now doing, surely we are successful and should be pleased with that success? Though there are no guarantees, by visiting and establishing contact we are one step nearer to making Libya less of an enemy. We need to promote peace in the world, not prolong enmity.
Carolyn, Royston, UK

Yes. Terrorism breeds in isolation. Libya should be welcomed into the world community. This has to be a good thing. The diplomatic solution is what any non-violent person hopes for. Of course having a "friendly" country in the Middle East can not hurt the political map.
John, UK

Colonel Gaddafi has been trying to mend diplomatic relations for 10 years, with the reply from this government they 'don't deal with terrorists'. So now the Blair government decide they can use this to claim a small victory in the 'war on terror' (spin) they do.
Peter, London

We have shown that diplomacy can and does work. Libya should now come in out of the cold as an example to other countries who support terrorism that there is a better way. The Lockerbie bombers have been handed over and compensation has been agreed for the families, police are going to Tripoli to investigate the murder of WPC Fletcher. Let's look to the future not to the past.
Alec, York, UK

Where there is oil there is a way
Tony, Farnborough, UK
Maybe it's only a matter of time before we see Tony Blair meeting Osama bin Laden, praising his courage for renouncing terror? Or maybe a warm embrace and talk of friendship with Kim Jong-Il? A visit like this yet Blair's Government have the cheek to accuse the Tories of opportunism? Where there is oil there is a way.
Tony, Farnborough, UK

Of course we must move on and any attempt to re-establish relationships with Libya must be worth a try. I have visited the country several times and always found the people friendly and anxious to be accepted again. Yes, Colonel Gaddafi is a maverick and can act as an unbalanced leader but the country has a strategic importance and seems now ready to accept international responsibilities. Even if this attempt to set a new relationship fails it must be worth making.
Gordon Hall, Bidston, Wirral, UK


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