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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 February, 2004, 13:41 GMT
Full transcript: Libyan PM interview
Libyan PM Shukri Ghanem
Mr Ghanem spoke to BBC Radio 4
Libyan prime minister Shukri Ghanem was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme. This is a full transcript of the interview.

Q: How advanced was your weapons of mass destruction programme?

A: Well, it is better that the International Atomic Agency will tell you about how advanced it is. They will be in a better position to evaluate it technically.

Q: Ever since your country's revolution in 1969 your government has had some quite radical policies. This is a really big turnaround. Why are you doing it?

A: Well, we found out that even if you develop it and if you obtain these weapons, you cannot use them. America could not use them in Vietnam or in Kampuchea and they have the biggest arsenal of such weapons in the world. So, even after spending all this money, what will you do with them?

It is our policy now to concentrate on our economic development and improve the standard of living for our people. So we need the money that we are spending on guns to be spent on butter.

Q: How much of an influence though was the American coalition force's invasion of Iraq?

A: To begin with, the whole idea of getting rid or stop the whole programme - as a matter of fact we had the idea since day one when we started the programme itself. But the negotiation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the Americans and the British was far before the war in Iraq or the coalition forces there.

Q: So it's nothing to do then with what happened in Iraq?

A: It is nothing to do with what happened in Iraq.

Q: Whose idea was it to abandon this programme and to allow inspectors from the West to come in? Was it your leader, Colonel Gaddafi's, or was it your government, your own - who made that decision?

A: The whole consensus of the government, the leader of the revolution - it is not only one idea that is thrown on the table all of a sudden. But it is something that when thought of for a long time, an exchange of views among ourselves and then of course discussed with other countries and we decided to go along with it because it is for our interest.

Q: Now the West, and particularly in Britain, has been applauding your moves to open up your country and to drop this weapons of mass destruction programme and let inspectors come in here and look at what you've been doing. But there do remain some issues, don't there, which are still a bone of contention? One of them is the murder of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher. It is thought that the bullet that killed her came from within the Libyan embassy, yet no one in Libya has been arrested and no one has been turned over for trial. Why?

A: Well, the whole thing went to a lot of investigations since that matter happened in '84 and I think it was subject for a lot of negotiation and agreement and I thought that as well the matter has been settled.

Q: But no one has been arrested, have they?

A: In the details of the agreements between the British and the Libyans, in the investigation that followed, the whole subject has been settled to the satisfaction of both governments and I think all these details have been discussed.

Q: I was talking just the other day to a Doctor Miloud El Mehadbi who helped actually draw up the Green Book with your leader. He said to me, one of the reasons why there's been no arrest is because he said there's no real evidence that the bullet came from within the Libyan Embassy and he says there's no proof that any Libyan was to blame. Do you go along with that?

A: Yes, Dr Mehadbi has been looking at this case and following it far more than I did and I think of course he is an expert on this subject. I think, maybe even he handled it at one point of time - and I think what he says should be kind of a very much educated view.

Q: So you would go along with the idea that there's no evidence that this was ever done by a Libyan anyway?

A: There is no reason to pose that view because I think it is an educated view coming from a lawyer who followed the case so I will go along of course with what a lawyer says.

Q: Another concern in Britain, from the relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, is that Libya has not actually apologised for what happened, it has simply paid, or agreed to pay, compensation. Why has Libya not actually apologised, said that you're sorry that you were behind this act?

A: Because it is a case that we came to a conclusion that we reached an agreement in which we feel that we bought peace. We after a while and after the sanctions and after the problems we have faced because of the sanctions, the loss of money, and we thought that it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed on compensation. Therefore we said, let us buy peace, let us put the whole case behind us and let us look forward.

Q: So payment of compensation didn't mean any acceptance of guilt?

A: I agree with that and this is why I said we bought peace.

Q: Now at the moment, the United States still has Libya on its list of states that sponsor terrorism. How do you feel about that?

A: Well, of course you know the United States is a big power and a big country and it put us, to my mind, unjustly on this list. Because it is a powerful country it can apply certain sanctions. I think at least by now when we try to remove all the bones of contention and we try to buy peace and we try to reach an agreement on all pending issues, I think there is no reason whatsoever to keep Libya on this list and therefore I think that we should not be put on this list and I think pretty soon we will be removed from that list.

Q: In Britain concerns about terrorism and connections with Libya go back to the IRA and the Northern Ireland spokesman for the Conservative Party says that what you should do now is pay compensation to those who were killed by guns supplied by Libya to the IRA. How do you respond to that?

A: As I said, this whole matter we have put behind us and I hope that everyone will forget about talking about the past and raising problems that may bring us back to square number one.

Q: But would you be willing to consider paying compensation to people who were killed by weapons supplied by yourselves to the IRA?

A: No one has suffered from terrorism more than we did. During the Second World War the Allies and the Axis decided to fight each other and from all other places they came to Libya - they fought each other here.

They put millions of mines on our ground. Still to this day people are getting killed because of these mines and we did not get compensation. And of course if we are talking about compensation, no one deserves maybe compensation more than we do.

Q: One of the main sticking points, particularly with the US, is an absence of full human rights here in this country and indeed a free press. They have a point don't they?

A: When you talk about human rights, everyone has a point. I can say the same. If you look at Human [Rights] Watch or Amnesty International, they are accusing the United States as well the UK sometimes, even Sweden, from time to time.

There is a violation of human rights some time, intentionally or unintentionally of course. But everyone would like to improve his record of human rights, we and others. You cannot have a perfect government in any part of this world.

Q: You've invited the charity Amnesty International to come to this country. What's the thinking there - are you preparing some new announcement or policy on human rights?

A: No, we would like just to open up also for them to look at what we are doing and to tell us are we really violating human rights, as some people are accusing us. We think no, we are not. But in any case we stand to listen to any views but we think we are doing fine.

Q: Another area of concern in Britain has been your government's support for the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe. Do you still support him?

A: Well, if any president is elected by his people, or accepted by his people, we are not in this situation or in the mood just to follow if the West doesn't like a president, we go and don't like him. We don't want to use the words of Nelson Mandela that no one should choose my friends for me - every one has the right to choose his friends.

Q: Do you support what he is doing in Zimbabwe?

A: No - I mean, it is not what he's doing in Zimbabwe. What is our problem with him - we have no problem with him. You have a problem with him - it is up to you to support him. We have no problem with the man.

Q: But don't you supply aid, fuel, other help?

A: To so many other African countries - humanitarian help we are giving to so many other countries. So it is not to support this man or that man but we like to help people.

Q: Moving on now to our Prime Minister, Tony Blair, he's due to visit this country later this year. Do you have any more information about when he may come and indeed what he may do while he is here?

A: No I don't know his schedule of course therefore I cannot say when he is coming - of course it depends on his other commitments. But I hope that he will be coming, the sooner the better. He will be most welcome here. We would like to see him as soon as he can because I'm sure that he will be surprised that we are just very open people, very nice people. There are stereotypes he has got maybe about us by others - it is not true and I think he will enjoy coming to Libya and he will find friends here.

Q: How significant would you say his visit is?

A: Well it is always good to exchange views and to meet people and to start direct contacts and this is why it is significant. Instead of hearing about Libya and hearing about the people in Libya, he'll see them, meet them and talk to them - it is very important and very significant.

Q: Now Colonel Gaddafi is known to have been invited to go to Belgium - to go to Brussels - is there any possibility in the near future we may see him going to London?

A: Why not? Colonel Gaddafi was in London before the revolution - I don't know whether you know that or not. He spent more than six months there and of course everyone who has been in a certain place would like to go back and see how it looks and how much it has changed and of course if he's invited, I think he will entertain the idea.

Libya: The Blair-Gaddafi project
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10 Feb 04  |  Politics


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