Since he took power in a 1969 military coup, Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-QADHAFI has espoused his own political system - a combination of socialism and Islam - which he calls the Third International Theory. Viewing himself as a revolutionary leader, he used oil funds during the 1970s and 1980s to promote his ideology outside Libya, even supporting subversives and terrorists abroad to hasten the end of Marxism and capitalism. Libyan military adventures failed, e.g., the prolonged foray of Libyan troops into the Aozou Strip in northern Chad was finally repulsed in 1987. Libyan support for terrorism decreased after UN sanctions were imposed in 1992. Those sanctions were suspended in April 1999.
Since 1969, Qadhafi has determined Libya's foreign policy. His principal foreign policy goals have been Arab unity, elimination of Israel, advancement of Islam, support for Palestinians, elimination of outside--particularly Western--influence in the Middle East and Africa, and support for a range of "revolutionary" causes.
After the 1969 coup, Qadhafi closed American and British bases on Libyan territory and partially nationalized all foreign oil and commercial interests in Libya. He also played a key role in promoting the use of oil embargoes as a political weapon for challenging the West, hoping that an oil price rise and embargo in 1973 would persuade the West--especially the United States--to end support for Israel. Qadhafi rejected both Soviet communism and Western capitalism and claimed he was charting a middle course.
In August 1981, two Libyan jets fired on U.S. aircraft participating in a routine naval exercise over international waters of the Mediterranean claimed by Libya. The US planes returned fire and shot down the attacking Libyan aircraft.
On 7 December 1981 President Ronald Reagan claimed that US has evidence that Libyan leader has sent assassination teams to murder top US officials. Immediately after that the Reagan administration called on 1,500 Americans residing in Libya to leave "as soon as possible," citing "the danger, which the Libyan regime poses to American citizens." In December 1981, the State Department invalidated U.S. passports for travel to Libya.
In March 1982, the U.S. Government prohibited imports of Libyan crude oil into the United States and expanded the controls on U.S.-origin goods intended for export to Libya. Licenses were required for all transactions, except food and medicine. In March 1984, U.S. export controls were expanded to prohibit future exports to the Ras al-Enf petrochemical complex. In April 1985, all Export-Import Bank financing was prohibited.
Libya's relationship with the former Soviet Union involved massive Libyan arms purchases from the Soviet bloc and the presence of thousands of east bloc advisers. Libya's use--and heavy loss--of Soviet-supplied weaponry in its war with Chad was a notable breach of an apparent Soviet-Libyan understanding not to use the weapons for activities inconsistent with Soviet objectives. As a result, Soviet-Libyan relations reached a nadir in mid-1987.
After the fall of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, Libya concentrated on expanding diplomatic ties with Third World countries and increasing its commercial links with Europe and East Asia. Following the imposition of UN sanctions in 1992, these ties significantly diminished. Following a 1998 Arab League meeting in which fellow Arab states decided not to challenge UN sanctions, Qadhafi announced that he was turning his back on pan-Arab ideas, one of the fundamental tenets of his philosophy.
Instead, Libya pursued closer bilateral ties, particularly with North African neighbors Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. It also has sought to develop its relations with Sub-Saharan Africa, leading to Libyan involvement in several internal African disputes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Libya also has sought to expand its influence in Africa through financial assistance, ranging from aid donations to impoverished neighbors such as Niger to oil subsidies to Zimbabwe. Qadhafi has proposed a borderless "United States of Africa" to transform the continent into a single nation-state ruled by a single government. This plan has been moderately well received, although more powerful would-be participants such as Nigeria and South Africa are skeptical.
In 1988, Libya was found to be in the process of constructing a chemical weapons plant at Rabta, a plant which is now the largest such facility in the Third World. Libya is currently constructing another chemical weapons production facility at Tarhunah. Libya's support for terrorism and its past regional aggressions made this development a matter of major concern to the United States. In cooperation with like-minded countries, the United States has since sought to bring a halt to the foreign technical assistance deemed essential to the completion of this facility.
On December 21, 1988, a bomb exploded aboard Pan American flight 103, 31,000 feet above the quiet Scottish village of Lockerbie. Two-hundred seventy men, women, and children, from 30 nations, were murdered. Authorities in the United States and Britain obtained evidence linking Abd al-Basit al-Maqrahi a senior Libyan intelligence officer and Lamin Fhimah, former manager of the Libyan Arab airlines office in Malta, to the suitcase bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103. Libyan agents were also sought by the French government in connection with the bombing of UTA flight 772 in 1989 -- a savage act of terrorism that cost the lives of 171 one people.
In 1991, two Libyan intelligence agents were indicted by federal prosecutors in the U.S. and Scotland for their involvement in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. In January 1992, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 731 demanding that Libya surrender the suspects, cooperate with the Pan Am 103 and UTA 772 investigations, pay compensation to the victims' families, and cease all support for terrorism. Libya's refusal to comply led to the approval of UNSC Resolution 748 on March 31, 1992, imposing sanctions designed to bring about Libyan compliance. Continued Libyan defiance led to passage of UNSC Resolution 883--a limited assets freeze and an embargo on selected oil equipment--in November 1993.
Promulgated in 1996, the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) sought to penalize non-U.S. companies which invest more than $40 million in Libya's oil and gas sector in any one year. ILSA was renewed in 2001, and the investment cap lowered to $20 million.
There have been no credible reports of Libyan involvement in terrorism since 1994, and Libya has taken significant steps to mend its international image. In 1999, the Libyan Government surrendered two Libyans suspected of involvement in the Pan Am 103 bombing, leading to the suspension of UN sanctions. On January 31, 2001, a Scottish court seated in Netherlands found one of the suspects, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, guilty of murder in connection with the bombing, and acquitted the second suspect, Al-Amin Kalifa Fhima. Megrahi has appealed his conviction; the appeal began on January 23, 2002.
Full lifting of UN sanctions is contingent on Libyan compliance with its remaining UNSCR requirements on Pan Am 103, including acceptance of responsibility for the actions of its officials and payment of appropriate compensation. Libya did pay compensation in 1999 for the death of British policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, a move that preceded the reopening of the British Embassy in Tripoli, and paid damages to the families of the victims in the bombing of UTA Flight 772.
On November 13, 2001, a German court found four persons, including a former employee of the Libyan Embassy in East Berlin, guilty in connection with the 1986 La Belle disco bombing, in which two U.S. servicemen were killed. The court also established a connection to the Libyan Government. The German Government has demanded that Libya accept responsibility for the La Belle bombing and pay appropriate compensation. Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing and has agreed to set up a $2.7 billion fund to compensate the families of the bombing's 270 victims, say reports.
In June 2002 a group of New York lawyers announced that they had struck a deal with Libya and Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi. Under terms of the deal, the United States and United Nations would lift their sanctions against the terrorist state in return for $2.7 billion payable to the families of the 270 innocent victims murdered on Pan Am Flight 103 and the on ground.
As recently as January 12, 2003, Libyan leader, Moammar Gaddafi, in an interview with Newsweek-Washington Post reporter, Lally Weymouth, failed to accept responsibility for the attack and had the audacity of calling for the United States to share the burden of compensation.
On 18 August 2003 The White House announced that US sanctions against Libya for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, will remain in place because "there are still a number of serious concerns we have with regard to Libya. ... Libya has met the requirements of accepting responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing, and that was important that they accept that responsibility," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "They have sent a letter to the United Nations to that effect." McClellan said that he expects the United Nations to move forward soon on a resolution to end U.N. sanctions against Libya. The United States had already sent a letter saying that it is not opposed to lifting the U.N. sanctions. "United States sanctions will remain in place because we still have a number of serious concerns when it comes to Libya, most notably, their continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their continued participation in regional conflicts in Africa that have been very destructive and unhelpful," said McClellan. "Libya continues to have a poor human rights record. So there are a number of concerns we still have."
In August 2003 London and Washington began to push the Security Council to lift all UN sanctions against Tripoli. As a permanent member with veto power, France agreed in principle to lift the sanctions, but urged a delay so that it could negotiate increased Libyan indemnity payments to its own citizens in connection with the 1989 bombing of a French UTA airliner over Niger. France dropped its opposition to the resolution after Tripoli agreed to increase payments to families of the 170 passengers who died when the French airliner exploded over the Niger desert.
Libya remains on the Department of State's list of state-sponsors of terrorism. Continued US concerns include involvement with West African strongmen in Burkina Faso and Liberia to seize diamond fields in Sierra Leone, along with efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and desists in its pursuit to produce and deliver nuclear weapons. US Ambassador James Cunningham told UN delegates that Washington continued to have "serious concerns about other aspects of Libyan behaviour, including its poor human rights record, rejection of democratic norms and standards, its irresponsible behaviour in Africa, its history of involvement in terrorism -- and most important - its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery."
Many experts consider Gaddafi's political position to be highly stable. Visitors to Libya cannot fail to notice the ubiquitous large portraits of the leader on buildings, in squares etc., both in cities and the rural areas. The reproduction of the human face on posters, graffiti and bill boards is limited to two figures: Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and to a less extent national hero Omar al-Muktar that distinguished himself in his resistance fight against the Italian occupation forces.
On 19 December 2003 Libya agreed to destroy all of its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons. The surprise announcement followed nine months of secret talks between Libyan, American, and British officials. Libya agreed to abide by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and to allow for immediate inspections and monitoring.
Experts and analysts say a number of factors were behind Libya's decision. Hans Blix, the UN's former chief weapons inspector, speculated that Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi might have feared the same fate as deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "I can only speculate, but I would imagine that Gadhafi could have been scared by what he saw happen in Iraq. While the Americans would have difficulty in doing the same in Iran and in North Korea as they have done in Iraq, Libya would be more exposed, so maybe he will have reasons to be worried," Blix said.
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