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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Condaleez Rice to Vsist Gaddafi, Libya

By Viola Gienger

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to travel to North Africa tomorrow to welcome an unlikely ally to the U.S. fight against terrorism: Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

For most of Qaddafi’s 39 years in power, the U.S. listed Libya as a state sponsor of terrorism, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and banned American companies from doing business there.

  • Now the country is sharing intelligence with the U.S. about the North African activities of al-Qaeda, the Islamic militants behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
  • And U.S. energy, telecommunications and construction companies are vying for billions of dollars in contracts tied to expanded oil production in Libya, which has 3.4 percent of the world’s proven reserves.
  • Qaddafi’s help on intelligence matters has been “exemplary,” said Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, whose negotiations with Libya paved the way for Rice’s visit. “One of the benefits of working with Libya in this area over the last several years is that we’ve been able to expand this kind of cooperation,” he added in an interview.

  • The U.S. is negotiating a military cooperation accord with Libya and says the country is helping stem the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
  • Al-Qaeda consolidated Islamist fighters in Algeria and Libya in the past two years under the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, or AQIM.
  • In November, al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahiri urged his fighters to topple Qaddafi, excoriating his decisions to renounce terrorism and shun nuclear and chemical weapons.
  • Libyans may want to buy aircraft and related equipment to help patrol their borders.

As U.S. officials court Qaddafi, they’ve said little about the regime’s suppression of its own people beyond annual government reports citing its “authoritarian” rule and “poor” record on human rights.

Libya holds political prisoners, torture is widespread and the government allows almost no free press or assembly, said Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York.

The Rest @ Aftermath News

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