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While Gaddafi is free, Libya cannot move on

Telegraph View: The longer Gaddafi remains at large, and forces loyal to him hold out, the harder Libyan reconciliation will be.


The more totalitarian the regime, the worse the legacy. Take Iraq and Libya. During their many years in power, both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi smashed all forms of dialogue between government and people, whether it be through political parties, trade unions, religious institutions or non-governmental organisations. In Iraq, the difficulty of establishing a new order was compounded by putting the Pentagon in charge of nation-building. The subsequent de-Baathification campaign left the population prey to criminality; Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 100,000 civilians have been killed since the allied invasion.

In Libya, the National Transitional Council (NTC) is fully aware of that terrible precedent. Its leaders have urged rebel forces to avoid reprisals. In contrast to Iraq, the revolution is indigenous, which, despite the assistance given by Nato, will shield the NTC from accusations of being a neo-colonialist pawn. Thirdly, Libya lacks the deep sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia which still plagues Iraq.

It will need all those advantages to escape from the current chaos. Aside from the immediate humanitarian needs of Tripoli, the NTC faces the daunting task of disarming a country awash with guns, and of integrating those militia members who want to continue bearing arms into a national army. Even if the Sunni-Shia factor is absent, there is no lack of other sources of tension: the eastern region of Cyrenaica against western Tripolitania, Arab against Berber, tribe against tribe, moderate Muslim against Islamist. And the longer Gaddafi remains at large, and forces loyal to him hold out, the harder reconciliation will be. Nato can be proud of its role in removing a vicious dictator. But that effort will count for nothing if the NTC cannot restore order. On the security front, the baton may need to be passed to an Arab peacekeeping force under the auspices of the UN. In other areas, alliance members can provide assistance in reviving oil production and preparing the country for elections.

Britain has played a leading role in Nato action over Libya. It is, therefore, reasonable that it should demand something in return from Gaddafi’s successors. Top of the list is that justice should be done over the killing of Pc Yvonne Fletcher in St James’s Square by a Libyan diplomat in 1984. Nothing better illustrates the banditry of Gaddafi’s misrule than her death. The name of the suspected killer, Abdulmagid Salah Ameri, was revealed in The Daily Telegraph at the weekend. The extradition of the suspect, or suspects, to stand trial in Britain would be welcome proof that Libya is moving in a radically new direction

Filed in: World News

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