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Gaddafi Has Admitted His Role in Lockerbie Bombing

"Gaddafi Has Admitted His Role in Lockerbie Bombing"

Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi Admits to Terrorism

Newspaper Article

By: Imre Karacs and Kim Sengupta

Date: May 16, 2001

Source: The Independent (London).

About the Author: In 2001, Imre Karacs was a Berlin-based correspondent for The Independent. Karacs has also written for The Times (London) and MSNBC online. Kim Sengupta writes for The Independent. Sengupta was The Independent's foreign correspondent in the Middle East in 2001, and later covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

INTRODUCTION

On September 1, 1969 a group of military officers led by Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi (also known as Gaddafi) staged a coup against the ruling King Idis and took control of the north African nation of Libya. While holding no official position, Qaddafi assumed the role of the leader of Libya.

Qaddafi's relationship with the West has been controversial, and stems from his support for a system he called Islamic Socialism, which encouraged government control of large businesses and extreme social conservative policies.

Qaddafi is a strong supporter of Pan-Arabism, calling for the unity of all Arab nations and inherited the role of leader of the Arab nationalist movement when Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser died in 1970. Throughout the 1970s, Qaddafi became known internationally for his support of terrorist groups and was considered a principal financer of the Black September group which murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

The United States also claimed that Qaddafi was behind a 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco where three people were killed and more than two hundred injured—many of them U.S. Army soldiers. United States forces were involved in attacks on Libyan patrol boats, and in April 1986, President Ronald Reagan ordered the U.S. military to carry out major bombing attacks against Libya's large cities.

In the early 1990s, Libya faced economic sanctions following the involvement of two Libyan citizens in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, an attack that killed 270 people.

PRIMARY SOURCE

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has admitted involvement in two of the worst terrorist outrages of the 1980s: the bombing of the Pan Am airliner that crashed on Lockerbie and the assault on a Berlin discotheque, a leaked German government memo reveals.

The Libyan leader's alleged admission came during a secret meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's chief foreign policy adviser, who related it to Germany's allies in Washington. A confidential account of that briefing has been leaked to a German newspaper.

The admission is seen as important for attempts to reintegrate Libya into the international community and have UN [United Nations] sanctions lifted. Acceptance of responsibility for acts of terrorism is the key stipulation demanded by the UN for the lifting of the sanctions imposed after the Lockerbie bombing.

Sanctions were suspended after Tripoli agreed to hand over two suspects for the Lockerbie bombing. But Britain and America say the sanctions will not be officially lifted and could be reimposed unless the Libyan regime accepts the terrorist responsibility condition.

So far authorities in the West have had difficulty linking Colonel Gaddafi to the bombings. It has proved even more difficult to convict those suspected of the bombing of Berlin's La Belle discotheque in 1986, in which three people were killed. But Michael Steiner, the German official in whom the Libyan leader allegedly confided, faced a summons to give evidence after the revelation was made yesterday at the La Belle trial in Berlin.

According to Allgemeine Zeitung, which published the leaked memo, Mr. Steiner visited Colonel Gaddafi in February. When Mr. Schroder visited Washington a month later, Mr Steiner was there during a meeting with President Bush. Also present was the German ambassador, Jurgen Chrobog, who cabled an account to his bosses in Berlin. It is this memo that appears to have found its way to the newspaper and to La Belle victims' lawyers.

SIGNIFICANCE

In later years, there has been considerable evidence that Qaddafi's policies and attitudes towards the West have become far more moderate. In addition to admitting his past role in terrorism, he announced that his country had been harboring a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, which he invited foreign experts to analyze and dismantle.

Although Qaddafi's vision of unity among Arab nations has not been realized, he is now considered a moderate leader among Arab states. In August 2003, Qaddafi reached an agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom that included renouncing terrorism, paying restitution to the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims, and cooperating with international monitoring agencies to disarm any nuclear, chemical, and biochemical weapons.

In March 2004, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair became the first Western leader in over two decades to meet with Qaddafi. The destruction of thousands of pounds of Libya' chemical weapons has continued under the supervision of international monitoring groups. Libya was also found to have an active nuclear weapons program, and Qaddafi has cooperated with international efforts to dismantle it.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Naden, Corinne J. Muammar Qaddafi (Heroes and Villains). San Diego: Lucent Books, 2004.

Web sites

The CIA World Fact Book. "Libya." <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ly.html> (accessed July 6, 2005).

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