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World > Africa > Libya > Foreign Relations (Notes)

Libya - Foreign Relations (Notes)


FOREIGN RELATIONS
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.

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, which had been one of the fundamental tenets of his philosophy.

Instead, Libya pursued closer bilateral ties, particularly with North African neighbors Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. It has also 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 has also 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, and through participation in the African Union. 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 greeted with skepticism. Libya has played a helpful role in facilitating the provision of humanitarian assistance to Darfur refugees in Chad.

Terrorism
Libya has taken significant steps to mend its international image and formally renounced terrorism in a letter to the UN Security Council in August 2003. 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 the 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 Khalifa Fhima. Megrahi?s conviction was upheld on March 14, 2002.

UN sanctions were lifted on September 12, 2003 following 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 paid 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. With the lifting of UN sanctions in September 2003, each of the families of the victims of Pan Am 103 received $4 million of a maximum $10 million in compensation. After the lifting of U.S. IEEPA-based sanctions on September 20, 2004, the families received a further $4 million.

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 demanded that Libya accept responsibility for the La Belle bombing and pay appropriate compensation. A compensation deal for non-U.S. victims was agreed in August 2004. U.S. victims continue to pursue their claims in federal court.

By 2003, Libya appeared to have curtailed its support for international terrorism, although it may have retained residual contacts with some of its former terrorist clients. In August 2004, the Department of Justice entered into a plea agreement with Abdulrahman Alamoudi, in which he stated that he had been part of a 2003 plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah (now King Abdallah) at the behest of Libyan government officials.

In 2005, the Saudi Government pardoned the individuals accused in the assassination plot. During the 2005 UN General Assembly session, Foreign Minister Shalgam issued a statement that reaffirmed Libya's commitment to the statements made in its letter addressed to the Security Council on August 15, 2003, renouncing terrorism in all its forms and pledging that Libya will not support acts of international terrorism or other acts of violence targeting civilians, whatever their political views or positions. Libya also expressed its commitment to continue cooperating in the international fight against terrorism. On June 30, 2006, the U.S. rescinded Libya?s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.


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Historical Highlights
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