US Too Slow to Join Race to Libya
Libya may finally be able to close the chapter that began with the downing of Pan Am flight 103. The two Libyan nationals accused of carrying out the 1988 terrorist attack over Lockerbie, Scotland were brought to trial last week in the Netherlands. With the start of the hearings came speculation and rumors that the United States will, upon the trial’s conclusion, join the rest of the Western World's race to Libyan trade opportunities. In the meantime US firms are missing out on lucrative deals forbidden to them due to the government trade ban. Other governments from all over the world do not share the US sentiments and have reestablished economic ties with Libya. This boils down to big opportunities for non-American firms able to capitalize on Libya’s economic revitalization plans.
Abdelbaser Ali Mohammed Al Magrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the two Libyan nationals accused of carrying out the murders of 270 Pan Am flight 103 passengers, pleaded not guilty early last week in Camp Ziest, Holland. The high profile case is expected to last well into the coming year, prolonging U.S. sanctions as the court hears testimony from the more than 1,600 witnesses. Libyan leader, Mu’ammar Qadhafi, released a statement promising to accept the courts judgement, adding that upon conclusion he did not expect that there would be any further investigation into his or any other Libyan official’s actions.
Qadhafi’s comments appear to support the increasingly popular view that his past hostility toward the western world has subsided, at least for the time being. This view comes on the heals of Libya’s call to western powers and businessmen alike to end 8 years of sanctions and take advantage of the state's program to encourage economic revitalization.
Answering this call are hundreds of European, Asian and Canadian firms hoping to capitalize on the combination of the revitalization program and Libya’s roughly $12 billion in annual oil revenues. Italian companies appear to be leading the pack with agreements being reached dealing with maritime transportation and oil procurement. Not to be left out, British oil firm, Lasmo and European aircraft consortium, Airbus, are preparing to sign lucrative contracts.
Petrified of being left out, politically connected American businessmen and firms have begun a feverish campaign with the goal of lifting the U.S. trade ban. As a result U.S. official policy has softened allowing the shipment of 20,000 tons of durum wheat to Libya as well as permitting Occidental Petroleum and Oasis Consortium to survey wells they once operated. Assuming that these are not isolated incidents but rather the beginnings of governmental policy change to allow U.S. firms to operate in Libya, the Clinton administration would better serve its constituency by speeding up the process so they won’t find themselves left out in the cold come conclusion of the trial.
By the MEB Gateway Editor
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)