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United Press International (UPI)
Thursday, 21 September, 2006

Debate Continues On Qadhafi's Libya

Debate continues on Gadhafi's Libya
UPI Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- "Although there are 24 security cars surrounding my house, I have no doubt Gadhafi has been weakened. He's a terrorist and he will be brought to justice. Take care of my children. I am standing against this regime and I'll never back down."

Those are the words of Fathi el-Jahmi, as remembered by his brother Mohamed el-Jahmi from the last time they spoke on the phone before Fathi was taken by Libyan security police in March 2004 and imprisoned for a second time.

Fathi el-Jahmi is 65 years old. He remains imprisoned today in an unknown location, having virtually no contact with the outside world, according to David Stamps, a country specialist on Libya for Amnesty International.

Stamps said that el-Jahmi was originally imprisoned in October 2002 because he called for democratic reform in Libya. He was then released in March 2004 and abducted two weeks later by security agents.

To many Americans, it seems that much has changed since 2003, when Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi surrendered the country's nuclear weapons program and offered compensation for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, and that of UTA flight 772, in 1989.

In return for Gadhafi's agreement to cooperate with the United States and the United Kingdom in fighting terrorism and reneging on his weapons of mass destruction program, the U.S. resumed diplomatic relations with Libya, allowing for the establishment of embassies in Washington and Tripoli on May 31. By June, Libya was officially removed from the State Department's terrorism list.

But debate still rages around the question of how much Gadhafi's Libya has really changed since the reinstatement of relations with the U.S. Gadhafi claims to stand strong against terrorism, but there are those who argue that this is merely a façade.

"He never really took responsibility for the acts of terrorism," said Mohamed el-Jahmi, referring to Gadhafi and the plane bombings. "He merely paid his way off. I don't know what the State Department is doing removing him from the list of terrorists."

According to one State Department official who wished to remain unnamed, Gadhafi "made good on implementing policy change and stopping the nuclear weapons program. He also agreed to pay reparations. In terms of intelligence operations, he has cooperated fully."

This official explained that the U.S. now has a team of CIA agents in Libya gaining access to security information on the Middle East, which is an important benefit for the U.S.

According to Diederik Vandewalle, associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, Libya's formal governmental institutions are fairly new, installed in the last few decades in an effort to transition to modern statehood and to advance its oil industry.

When presenting his new book "Libya: Prospects for Change" at the Middle East Institute Monday, Vandewalle explained that "the true political power in Libya lies in the informal circles of people that work for Gadhafi."

He explained that in the upcoming years we can expect to see some economic reform come out of Libya, but in terms of political reform, the system will remain immobile while Gadhafi is in power.

Hafed Al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American who works for an international organization in Washington, explains the Libyan government this way: "There's the technocratic government. Then there's the shadowy clan of Gadhafi, the security apparatus, the informal side. They're in control. The formal government is subject to their whims."

He said, "Gadhafi is the antithesis of everything the U.S/ is saying it stands for: human rights, anti-terrorism, democracy. Democracy is the anchor of U.S. policy and Gaddafi is a dictator. Seeing him become an ally of the U.S. undermines U.S. credibility in the Arab world."

Al-Ghwell referenced the case of Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, an American Islamic intellectual who was found to be breaking U.S. law by traveling to Libya without consent and receiving funds from Tripoli, and who later pleaded guilty to a plot to assassinate a Saudi monarch in 2003.

According to Al-Ghwell, this case, as well as the plane bombings, and the fact that there is limited political freedom in Libya, show that Gadhafi is not as staunchly anti-terrorist as he claims to be. "How can the U.S. convince the Arab world it's serious about reform if it does not enforce it in Libya?" He asked.

David Goldwyn, president of the international energy consulting firm Goldwyn International Strategies, LLC, said that Libya has an aggressive economic reform plan in place that will change the economy considerably over the next several years. These changes will include privatization, new investment laws, and increased infrastructure, among other factors.

Goldwyn also said U.S. companies have increased their presence in Libya and that many U.S. companies are now exporting goods and services to Libya, as well. This will increase as more economic reforms are passed.

According to Goldwyn, Gadhafi's regime has changed since U.S.-Libyan relations have increased, and it is evidenced in its efforts towards economic reform.

When asked about the situation of the Libyan population and the need for political reform, Goldwyn said, "Political and economic reform advance together. The more economic space opens the more open to Western business and practices it will become."

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