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Khaleej Times
Monday, 27 June, 2005

What About Libya?

What about Libya?

27 June 2005

IT’S not every day a call is given to bring down the tyrannical regime in Libya. That is why when opposition groups met in London this weekend demanding an end to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, they invited global attention. The two-day conference of opposition groups in exile was meant to send out a clear message to Libyan people and the world that there could be an alternative to the hopelessly corrupt and undemocratic regime in Tripoli.

The London conference, reflecting a wide political and ideological spectrum, is perhaps the most serious attempt in decades to draw the world’s attention to the disturbing state of affairs in the country ruled for the past three decades by Col Gaddafi.

Doubtless, Libya is one of the worst remaining examples of dictatorship underpinned by all-round corruption, lack of democracy and human rights abuses. The Amnesty International in its annual report last year condemned the Libyan regime for violating basic human rights. The rights organisation said that despite Libya’s attempts to restore ties with the West, a "climate of fear" persisted in the country. The one-man rule by Gaddafi has been characterised by political repression, and lack of civil liberties. Despite being blessed with huge oil resources, Libya continues to be hopelessly poor and undeveloped thanks to the misrule by its eccentric tyrant.

The West which until recently spared no opportunity to censure the Gaddafi regime for its awful policies and actions, has become strangely silent since the Libyan leader began wooing it. As the Libyan opposition groups pointed out at their meeting in London on Saturday, no references are made any more to the Libyan regime’s appalling record in West’s regulation calls for reforms and democracy. Why? Is it because the Libyan regime has promised huge economic deals to the West? Libya is a vast unexplored country offering huge potential for business and infrastructure development. Is it any wonder then no sooner had the Libyan leader sent out friendly signals to US and Europe, Western leaders — from Blair to Berlusconi to Chirac — queued up to shake hands with Col Gaddafi. It doesn’t really matter even if the Libyan leader is far from serious in his commitment to reforms and freedom.

This hardly helps the cause of promoting democracy and freedom in the Middle East and Libya. While the Western nations — and for that matter any country — have every right to do business with Libya, they must do everything possible to persuade the regime in Tripoli to change. People of Libya have suffered long enough. It’s time they got their inalienable rights back. The Arab country cannot remain indifferent to the winds of change sweeping the neighbourhood. The world should refuse to deal with the Libyan regime unless it opens the country to genuine democracy and freedom.

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