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International Herald Tribune
Monday, 3 May, 2004

Don't Welcome Qadhafi

Don't welcome Qaddafi

New York Times
Monday, May 3, 2004

Some European leaders seem unduly eager to welcome Libya's blood-stained dictator, Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, into respectable international company. They ought to restrain themselves. Qaddafi's police state is a prime example of the kind of autocratic, erratic and incompetent government that led most of the Arab world into a dead end of economic and political stagnation, blighting millions of lives and stoking rage across the region.

Qaddafi's agreement to dismantle Libya's unconventional weapons programs last December made the world safer, and justified the easing of economic sanctions that had been explicitly linked to those programs. A strong case can now be made for easing Libya's economic isolation and improving the lot of its people - so long as Qaddafi refrains from channeling the proceeds into financing weapons programs or terrorism.

While doing so, however, democratic leaders need to maintain a healthy distance from the man responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people and who is now preparing to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his absolute rule. For most of that period he has used Libya's oil wealth to finance his fantasies of international revolutionary leadership, sponsoring coups, invasions, assassination attempts and terrorist atrocities across the world.

Americans got a taste of his methods in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. A year later, another Libyan terrorist bomb killed 170 people on a French airliner over Africa. Libyans have endured decades of assassinations, abductions and torture. In recent years, Qaddafi has withdrawn from direct involvement in international terrorism, and now, has ended his unconventional weapons programs. Still, lengthy arbitrary detentions and other human rights abuses continue at home.

Yet earlier this spring, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who loves to preach that the civilized world was right to confront a murderous Saddam Hussein, unwisely allowed himself to be entertained by Qaddafi in Libya. Blair's principles should have kept him away.

On April 27, Qaddafi met with the European Commission in Brussels, his first visit outside Africa or the Arab world in nearly 15 years. After lunch with the commission president, Romano Prodi, the Libyan leader made clear that his views on violence and politics have not fundamentally changed. He characterized past Libyan terrorism as "armed struggle" in support of freedom fighters. Qaddafi remains true to the bloody creed he has professed throughout his political career.

European leaders should be as steadfast in scorning this enemy of democracy and human dignity.

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