Chavez meets Gadhafi after controversial Iraq trip

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at
Mon Aug 14 15:52:26 MDT 2000

Times of India
August 14, 2000

Chavez meets Gadhafi after controversial Iraq trip
TRIPOLI: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez followed up a controversial
trip to Iraq with a visit to Libya on Sunday, another nation often at
odds with the United States and familiar with the sort of U.N. sanctions
he has condemned.
Chavez met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as part of a tour of
fellow member nations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Gadhafi also showed Chavez where his adopted daughter died in an April
1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and the port city of Benghazi that killed
at least three dozen people. The strikes were retaliation for a West
Berlin bombing allegedly involving Libya that killed three people at a
disco frequented by U.S. servicemen.
Chavez offered Gadhafi his condolences. The Venezuelan president's visit
Thursday to Baghdad was the first by a foreign head of state since
before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and was condemned by Washington as
bestowing undue credibility on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. At his
next stop in Indonesia, Chavez called for the lifting of U.N. sanctions
against Iraq in place since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which led to
the Gulf War.
The United States has led efforts to isolate Saddam and hold together
the steadily fraying support for U.N. sanctions against Iraq. In the
1980s and early 90s, it also led the way in ostracizing Gadhafi.
Chavez has a record of bucking the United States and has hailed Libya as
a "model of participatory democracy." "Whoever is disturbed by my words,
I do not care," he said in Jakarta.
Libya fell under a U.N. Security Council air embargo and other sanctions
in March 1992. The sanctions were suspended in April 1999 after Libya
turned over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over
Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Though Libya is free of the
restrictions, the sanctions have not yet been formally lifted.
The official U.S. stance toward Libya is under review. Like Iraq, it is
on the U.S. State Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism,
but officials in Washington have said Libya's links to terrorism have
dropped dramatically since the 1980s.
The United States still maintains unilateral sanctions against Libya,
though they were eased last year. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
also has been considering revoking a ban on U.S. travel to Libya.
Gadhafi, however, hasn't sought out a better relationship with the
United States, looking instead toward Africa. Some African leaders
ignored the U.N. sanctions, so Gadhafi's isolation - though significant
- never was complete. Today, Gadhafi often casts himself in the role of
a mediator in regional conflicts.
Unlike Iraq, Libya wasn't devastated by the U.N. sanctions. It had moved
its money to neutral areas before its overseas assets were frozen. It
always was able to buy most spare parts for its oil technology, albeit
at higher prices, and sell its oil. And the economy survived, with Libya
remaining one of the few nations without debt.
Since the sanctions were suspended, Libya has been promoting its
heritage and the natural beauty of its deserts and Mediterranean
shoreline in an attempt to revive tourism and make the nation less
dependent on oil. Foreign companies and European dignitaries have been
sending delegations to Libya to explore business opportunities.
Still, more than 90 percent of Libya's revenues come from oil sales,
making the economy vulnerable to wild fluctuations in oil prices, which
plunged as low as dlrs 10 a barrel in 1998 and rose higher than dlrs 30
earlier this year.
Chavez hopes to hold a Sept. 27 summit of the heads of state of OPEC
countries in Venezuela, the first such meeting since 1975, and he was
expected to formally invite Gadhafi during Sunday's visit. Still ahead
on his OPEC tour were visits to Nigeria and Algeria. (AP)

Macdonald Stainsby.

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