Libya's Gadhafi To Take UN Stage
By Elizabeth Arrott
18 September 2009
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will make his debut at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, after many years in the diplomatic wilderness.
Mr. Gadhafi is everywhere in Tripoli. It's something most Libyans seem used to.
The Colonel has been celebrating 40 years of his revolution, in tribute ... after tribute .... to himself.
There is the young army officer who seized power in a coup, and backed revolutionary and terrorist groups worldwide.
There is Gadhafi the philosopher, author of the Islamo-socialist "Third Universal Theory."
At the many concerts celebrating his time in power, there are references to his efforts to foster Arab Unity ...attempts that failed.
And references to his call for a United Africa ..... And to the backing he has received by no less a moral authority than Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela
But despite Libya's reformed approach to world affairs, and the lure of its massive oil wealth, not everyone is ready to have Mr. Gadhafi take center stage.
For one thing, he is an autocrat.... whose claim of running a direct democracy is as empty as this building devoted to human rights.
He has questionable taste in friends, among them Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wanted on charges of war crimes.
And the past is by no means forgotten. The welcome home of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al Megrahi outraged many in the west. People flocked to his home to pay their respects, for as many in Libya are quick to point out, they have always considered Megrahi innocent of the crime.
All the same it's a sensitive issue ...as his brother-in-law, Mohamed al-Mogdamy, makes clear. "Okay, they didn't like to make a [interview] ... this is the security instructions unfortunately," he said.
But according to the head of the government's Foreign Media Corporation, Abdul Majeed el-Dursi, Megrahi is a hero in a different way. "He volunteered to go and to save his country the bitterness of sanctions, which the Libyan people paid a very, very high price for," he said.
The sanctions did take a toll.
But in recent years, Tripoli paid reparations, renounced terror and weapons of mass destruction -- acts that led to sanctions being lifted, and the beginning of Libya's return to the fold.
State media tries to keep things as they have been for 40 years. But the rest of the world is proving impossible to keep out.
And at long last, some of the nation's oil wealth is beginning to be seen by at least some Libyans, like this shopowner.
"To get better, you have to get along with the others," a shopowner says, "To be better, you have to understand the others. And to understand the others you have to express yourself and solve problems in a better way. And I think our country did a lot of good things in the past few years."
Those good things are becoming more apparent inside Libya. Mr. Gadhafi's UN reception will give a better idea about any improvement on the world stage.
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