Political Outlook

Published October 18th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

During the first week of May, the trial of two Libyan agents accused of killing 270 people in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 began in Camp Ziest, Holland. The case is expected to last more than one year, since the court must hear over 1,600 defense and prosecution witnesses. The two suspects, Abdelbaser Ali Mohammed Al Magrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, have already pleaded not guilty to charges of murder. Meanwhile, Libyan leader Mu'ammar Qadhafi has promised to accept the court's judgement, but added that he did not believe this would imply any further investigations into the actions of Libyan officials or himself. 


Still, Qadhafi's statement signified a refreshing outlook towards the outside world. Throughout the past decade, mutual hostility and accusations have scarred this North African nation's relations with the West. Libya is still suffering from seven years of UN sanctions, and is now courting western businesspeople in an attempt to allure foreign capital to develop its neglected infrastructure and revitalize its economy. 


In early March, Qadhafi abolished most of his country's ministries, including the energy department, and named a new Prime Minister to head the scaled-down government. Mubarak Al Shamekh, Libya's 50-year old former housing minister, succeeded ex-Prime Minister Mohammed Ahmed Al Mangush, who held the post since 1998. The new premier has at his disposal two deputy prime ministers: former maritime resource minister Bashir Bujeneh, who is responsible for production, and Bagdadi Mahmudi, who is in charge of services. 


With the energy ministry abolished, the National Oil Company (NOC), under the supervision of the General People's Committee (GPC), the Libyan top legislative and executive body, now manages the state's energy policy. Qadhafi's decision to dissolve most of the ministries confirmed his disapproval of the outgoing cabinet's economic guidelines.  


In the medium-term future, Libya’s economy may receive a boost from American investment. Commerce Department sources indicated that Libya could soon be included in the Eizenstat Initiative, a U.S. trade scheme for North Africa valued at $2 billion. The U.S.-Libya rapprochement has not, however, proceeded entirely smoothly. While many had expected the State Department’s 20-year travel ban to be lifted, the U.S. Senate issued a surprising recommendation to continue the prohibition on US citizens travelling to Libya.  


For the moment, Libya would best be served by focusing its efforts on rectifying its diplomatic and commercial ties with the more proximate Europe. Romano Prodi has worked vigorously to bring Libya into the EU's Barcelona partnership program, which links 26 European and Mediterranean countries. Inclusion in such an initiative would instantly boost Libya's international standing.  

© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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