Wednesday, April 28, 2004

He is “our” terror master now

Helen Szamuely

The EU thinks President Muammar Gaddafi is now a good friend because of his apparent co-operation over arms and support for terrorists. He, on the other hand, feels that all this friendship can get a bit cloying without the sharp addition of a threat. Perhaps he, too, thinks that all one has to do is threaten West Europeans and everything will be granted.

The European Commission welcomed President Gaddafi of Libya in Brussels on April 27, allegedly, because he has worked hard and made great progress in opening up his country to some weapon inspection, promising not to go on developing arms and supplying terrorists around the world and settling two of the cases – the PanAm and UTA airliner bombing - to some people’s satisfaction. Libya has also been instrumental in passing on information that led to the uncovering of the Pakistani nuclear secrets scandal.

The United States has considered it to be sufficient to encourage commercial links as a reward for good behaviour but not to develop the diplomatic ones. Not so the European Union (or Mr Blair for that matter, who rushed off to shake hands with the man immediately after attending a service for the bomb victims of Madrid). Muammar Gaddafi was welcomed with all pomp and circumstance in Brussels, shown round the Commission by Romano Prodi himself and then went on to a formal banquet with the Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (whose main political aim, as our readers will recall, has been the destruction of the successful opposition party, the Vlaams Blok).

Romano Prodi said something odd, though. During a grandiloquent welcoming speech he let slip the comment that he has been working for this moment for five years. How does that square with the careful propaganda that Gaddafi was being welcomed for his good behaviour? It sounds like the European Commission, as is its wont, was trying to be extra nice to one of the world’s leading terror masters.

Unfortunately, President Gaddafi remained insensitive to the high honour being accorded to him. In his long and rambling speech he referred to the weapons he supplied to terrorists and the training camp he had set up for them all over the world as a justified use of arms. He also pointed out that while at the moment he was being a good boy and proud of his achievements in disarming and coming to various agreements with the West, all this could change.

"I hope we shall not be prompted or obliged by any evil to go back or look backward," he said. "We do hope we shall not be forced one day to go back to those days where we bomb or put explosive belts around our women, so we shall not be harassed in our bedrooms and homes as is taking place in Iraq and Palestine."

Romano Prodi appeared to be embarrassed by his new best friend but whether but what he said or by the inordinate length of his comments is not clear.

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