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MENAS Associates
April 2003

Libya: Reform Programme In Doubt

April 2003

One of the consequences of the tensions in the Middle East and the war in Iraq has been that there is now apparent hesitation over the reform programme that Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi had been expected to endorse.

The programme has been put forward by the moderates around such figures as ambassador to the UK, Muhammad Zuway, his likely replacement, Abdelatti Obeidi and the current foreign minister and former leading light in the revolutionary committee movement, Abderrahman Shalgam, with support from key functionaries such as Musa Kusa. It involves the preparation of a new constitution that would transform the jamahiriyah into a jumhuriyah, a republic, with Colonel Qadhafi as its president.

The programme also had the support of Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, and included plans to modernise the Libyan economy and to improve relations with the European Union through full membership of the Euro–Mediterranean Partnership.

The crisis in the Arab world over the twin questions of the Anglo-American pre-emptive war against Iraq and the much-disputed quartet road-map for a renewed move towards peace between Palestine and Israel seems to have thrown these plans into disarray.

The General People’s Congress meeting, due for March, has been postponed, so the governmental changes it was to endorse have been delayed. Qadhafi himself is beginning to question his pro-Western policies of recent years. He seems, in short, to be torn between his habitual truculence towards the West, particularly the US, and the realisation that political and diplomatic change is inevitable. There has been considerable frustration amongst the moderates as a result.

Even within the exiled Libyan community there is growing uncertainty about what may actually happen. One leading Libyan exile, Idris al-Sanussi, who claimed in mid-April that he had been privately approached to take a senior government appointment in the new arrangements, announced that he would not respond because of the changed circumstances caused by the Iraq war. He also alleged that Libya had evacuated its nationals from Iraq at the start of the month, an allegation later confirmed by the Pentagon, which also stated that Libya had assured it that the move had been for humanitarian reasons. The current situation, however, had not been the only reason for the delays in carrying out expected political and economic change...

© Menas Associates 2003


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