News and Views [ May 1999 ]

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Monday: 31 May, 1999: A group of pan-Arabs has filed a court case against all Arab heads of state to force them to declare unity among their countries, the group's head said on Saturday. A first-degree court will hear the case by the Egyptian Committee for Arab Nation Union on June 8, lawyer Wahid Fakhri Luxori said. ``The case is based on Arab constitutions, which state that pan-Arab union is the ultimate goal of their governments,'' he told Reuters in a telephone interview. The committee has about 300 members from Egypt, Iraq and Libya. [Reuters]

Friday: 28 May, 1999: Libya said on Thursday its peacekeeping force had arrived in Uganda and had already been deployed between Ugandan forces and the army of the Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Libyan foreign ministry, in a statement carried by the official Libyan news agency JANA, said efforts were continuying to reach an understanding between the DRC and Rwanda in an effort to bring peace in the Great Lakes. The statement did not specify where the Libyan forces had been deployed. [Reuters]
Friday: 28 May, 1999: The United States Senate Thursday passed a measure urging President Clinton to block the lifting of sanctions against Libya over the Lockerbie bombing until it fulfills all conditions set forth by the United Nations. The non-binding resolution, approved 98-0, urged the president to ``use all diplomatic means necessary,'' including a veto in the U.N. Security Council, to prevent the sanctions from being lifted unless all four conditions for their removal are met. The sanctions, imposed in 1992 and tightened in 1993, include an air and arms embargo as well as a ban on some oil equipment and the freezing of some of Libya's financial assets abroad. [Reuters]
Friday: 28 May, 1999: Sudan's First Vice President Ali Osman Mohammad Taha starts a visit to Libya on Thursday which Sudanese official media said would include talks aimed at reconciliation with a senior opposition leader. The pro-government Alwan newspaper said Taha would hold talks in Tripoli with Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and a leading member of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA). DUP Executive Member Mohammad Hakim told Reuters in Cairo on Wednesday that no such meeting between Mirghani and Taha was planned. [Reuters]
Thursday: 27 May, 1999: Chadian troops began leaving the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday, after deploying to help President Laurent Kabila fight Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebels, a U.N. peacekeeper and witnesses said. Chad decided to withdraw its troops after its president, Idriss Deby, Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed an agreement in Libya in April on restoring peace to the Congo. The agreement has not yet resulted in substantive peace talks. [Reuters]
Thursday: 27 May, 1999: Libya and South Africa on Tuesday initialised two accords to boost bilateral economic cooperation, Libya state television said. The television, monitored in Tunis, said the first accord was on trade and the second on establishing joint committees for economic, scientific and technical cooperation. The accords were initialled by South African Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin and Libyan Economy and Trade Minister Abdel Hafidh al-Zlitni. No other details were given by the Libyan television. [Reuters]

Tuesday: 25 May, 1999: Libya has dismissed as a ``pack of lies'' a London newspaper report that Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing. ``The new deliberate and disgraceful attempt at distortion ... forces us to warn international public opinion that what has been published is an attempt to politicize the case once again,'' a Foreign Ministry official told Libya's official news agency late Sunday. The Sunday Times reported that the British government has evidence of Qadhafi's direct involvement in the Pan Am bombing. The weekly quoted an unidentified ``former senior intelligence officer,'' as saying: ``We have known for a long while that Qadhafi gave the order.'' [AP]
Tuesday: 25 May, 1999: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak unexpectedly flew to Libya Monday to discuss regional issues with Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Few details were released on the talks in the Libyan city Sirt. Shortly before returning to Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said the two discussed Arab problems and the means of increasing Arab cooperation and fortifying Arab unity with the ``aim of creating Arab understanding.'' They also discussed bilateral relations between Egypt and Libya, Egypt's Middle East News Agency quoted Mubarak as saying. [AP]
Tuesday: 25 May, 1999: A South African government team held talks on Monday with Libyan ministers on boosting cooperation between the two countries, Libyan state television said. The delegation headed by Minister of Trade and Industry Alec Erwin included Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs Peneull Maduna and deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad, the South African embassy in Tunis said. It included businessmen representing mining exploration, agricultural equipment, construction, banking, aviation equipment and services, electricity and telecommunications. [Reuters]
Tuesday: 25 May, 1999: Egyptian prosecutors have charged 32 people with stealing arms from a Libyan military depot and smuggling them into Egypt, court sources said on Monday. ``The accused, who include a Libyan, were referred to a state security court on Sunday,'' one source said. No date has been set for the trial. The men are charged with smuggling 49 Belgian-made FN Browning handguns in trucks to sell them in Egypt. Thirty were arrested in April and two are still at large, the sources said. [Reuters]
Monday: 24 May, 1999: British Airways said on Sunday it would start flying to Tripoli in Libya from June 3, becoming one of the first major carriers to re-introduce services there since the United Nations lifted sanctions. The new service will be Britain's first non-stop air link with the city. ``Tripoli has great potential as an important business market and an emerging tourist destination, with remarkable archaeological sites,'' BA's director of passenger and cargo business Charles Gurassa said. BA's Boeing 737s will fly twice a week, from London Gatwick on Mondays and Thursdays. A third weekly flight is likely later this summer. [Reuters]
Monday: 24 May, 1999: South African President Nelson Mandela sent a senior delegation to Libya on Sunday. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the trade, energy and minerals and deputy foreign ministers flew to Libya to discuss opening an embassy in Tripoli and to lay the groundwork for increased trade between the two countries. ``The trip will be exploratory...on trade, to establish an embassy and to review diplomatic moves to end the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,'' the spokesman said. [Reuters]
Sunday: 23 May, 1999: Britain's Sunday Times says the government is hoping to restore normal relations with Libya in spite of evidence that the country's leader, Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, personally ordered the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing. A Foreign Office spokesman declined to comment. The spokesman confirmed, however, that British and Libyan officials met recently. ``We have held talks with the Libyans at the official level. We don't get into the details of substance of discussions,'' the Foreign Office spokesman said. The Sunday Times said it had seen ``clear evidence'' of the Libyan leader's personal involvement in the bombing of Pan Am 103 but was not publishing details because the government had threatened it with a court injunction. [Reuters]

Saturday: 22 May, 1999: A high-powered delegation of South African businessmen head for Libya on Sunday, hoping to secure contracts worth billions of US dollars up for grabs since the dropping of United Nations sanctions against the government of President Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. They are hoping to cash in on the political goodwill that exists towards South Africa in Libya, following President Nelson Mandela's intervention in a long-standing dispute arising from Libya's refusal to hand over two men suspected of the 1988 Pan-Am bombing over Lockerbie. [SAPA]
Saturday: 22 May, 1999: Early Thursday morning, NATO struck army barracks in Belgrade's plush Dedinje district where President Slobodan Milosevic lives and works. But one of the bombs went astray, leaving a hospital in smoldering ruins and three patients dead. The Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian and Hungarian ambassadors' residences were also damaged. Serbian media also reported damage to Libya's embassy and the Israeli diplomatic mission. [Reuters]
Friday: 21 May, 1999: Libya has authorised the payment of $5 million to Air Malta in part settlement of $13 million owed to the Maltese state-owned airline, a Maltese newspaper said on Thursday. The Times of Malta said the lump sum payment of $5 million was authorised by the governor of the Libyan Central Bank, Taher al-Jhaimi, in an unannounced visit to Malta during which he met Economic Services Minister Josef Bonnici. The Air Malta debts were accumulated following the imposition of United Nations sanctions against Libya, when international flights to and from Libya were banned. [Reuters]
Friday: 21 May, 1999: Egypt's Arabian International Construction (AIC) said it had won a 28 million mark ($15.25 million) contract in Libya to rebuild damaged parts in a tank farm for six power plants. The project is the first contract in the electricity sector after the lifting of sanctions on Libya, and is to be implemented within 12 months ending in July 2000, AIC said. ``The General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) has appointed KAHROMIKA (AIC's subsidiary with a 51 percent stake) as the general contractor of the project,'' it said, adding that its role was to replace all damaged parts and to maintain and update old parts. [Reuters]
Wednesday: 19 May, 1999: Russian President Boris Yeltsin formally authorized the resumption of diplomatic and economic ties between Russia and Libya Monday. The Russian decision followed the United Nations Security Council vote to lift international sanctions imposed on Libya. The end of UN sanctions came into effect when Libya handed over two suspects to the UN on April 5 to face trial for the December 1988 bombing of a Pan Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. A decree signed by the Russian president said all Russian state institutions and companies could restore ties with Libya. [Russia Today / AFP]

Tuesday: 18 May, 1999: Officials from five North African countries met in Algiers on Monday for the first time in more than three years to try to revive the long-dormant Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). ``The officials are considering ways to revive the union and prepare an agenda for a meeting of the five countries' foreign ministers due later this year in Algiers,'' Algerian state-run radio said. The AMU, linking Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, was formed in 1989 with an ambitious agenda to set up a common market in a region with more than 70 million people. Monday's meeting was the first since a diplomatic spat between key members Algeria and Morocco in late 1995. [Reuters]
Tuesday: 18 May, 1999: Diplomats from six nations including Russia and China joined India on Monday to demand NATO halt its bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. India's defence minister, speaking at a public meeting in the Indian capital that also drew top diplomats from Yugoslavia, Russia, Libya, China, Iraq and Cuba, said NATO should immediately halt its air war, now in its 55th day. ``I am sure that the collective voice of the people of the seven countries represented at this meeting will find an echo among all the people of the nations that have been targeted by the new NATO policy,'' George Fernandes said. [Reuters]

Sunday: 16 May, 1999: African leaders agreed Saturday in Libya to a peace deal that proposed a cease-fire in Congo's civil war and the first direct talks between the government and rebels, according to a statement issued at the end of a summit. However, the Rwandan government, which supports the rebels, denied an agreement was reached at an African summit that its vice president, Paul Kagame, attended along with Congolese President Laurent Kabila and other African leaders. Rwandan troops would remain in Congo as long as its security concerns are not satisfied, the Rwandan government said in a statement Sunday. [AP]
Sunday: 16 May, 1999: Eight African leaders meeting in Libya called on Saturday on all involved parties to take part in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Libyan state television, monitored in Tunis, said the meeting was chaired by Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi as part of his efforts to bring peace to the Congo. A statement issued at the end of the meeting and read on Libyan television said that ``the Congolese government had agreed to hold a direct dialogue with all opponent parties.'' It said Congolese opposition groups would be allowed to take part in a meeting of foreign ministers involved in the Great Lakes conflict to be held in the Zambian capital Lusaka. No date for this meeting was set. [Reuters]

Saturday: 15 May, 1999: Six African leaders have arrived in Libya for talks with Libyan Leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, hoping to bring peace to the Congo, the official Libyan news agency JANA reported on Friday. It said Democratic Republic of the Congo President Laurent Desire Kabila, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, who is the current chairman of the Organisation of African Unity, Chad's Idris Deby and Ange Felix Patasse from Central African Republic arrived on Friday in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte. They joined Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki and Rwandan Vice President and Defence Minister Major General Paul Kagame who arrived on Thursday night. Libyan sources said a mini-African summit on Congo was expected to be held overnight. [Reuters]
Saturday: 15 May, 1999: Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi held talks with Rwandan Vice President and Defence Minister Major General Paul Kagame as part of efforts to restore peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the official Libyan news agency JANA reported on Friday. The agency, monitored in Tunis, said the meeting on Thursday night in the coastal Libyan city of Sirte, some 450 km east of Tripoli, was attended by Tanzania's former president Julius Nyerere. Qadhafi also held talks with Mustapha Niasse, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy for the DRC, who arrived in Sirte on Thursday, it added. [Reuters]

Thursday: 13 May, 1999: South African President Nelson Mandela on Tuesday praised U.N. chief Kofi Annan for helping end a decade of diplomatic deadlock with Libya over the bombing of a U.S. airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. Mandela, who retires next month, was awarding medals to Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and South African diplomat Jakes Gerwel for negotiating the handover of the two Libyan suspects in the bombing. ``What we are recognising today includes the fact that what was done, was done in loyal and disciplined service of the United Nations secretary-general,'' he told an audience of reporters and diplomats. [Reuters]

Tuesday: 11 May, 1999: South African President Nelson Mandela will on Tuesday honour his director-general Jakes Gerwel and Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, for their efforts in mediating an end to the Lockerbie dispute. The two men would receive special awards at a lunch hosted by Mandela in Cape Town, the president's office said on Saturday. The men played a central role in efforts to mediate a compromise, under which Libya last month handed over two suspects for trial in the Netherlands under a Scottish court. [SAPA]
The April demonstration, New York City, 10 April 1999 ( video )

Sunday: 9 May, 1999: The first Sudan Airways flight to Libya since U.N. sanctions were suspended landed in Tripoli on Thursday, the state-owned al-Anbaa newspaper said on Friday. The daily said a Sudan Airways plane carrying 55 passengers and 45 members of a Sudanese delegation including officials and media representatives landed in Tripoli airport on Thursday. Sudan Airways said it would initially fly once a week to Libya on Thursdays. Relations between Sudan and Libya have been very close and an estimated two million Sudanese are working in Libya. [Reuters]

Saturday: 8 May, 1999: Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi held talks Wednesday in Tripoli with the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Issa Hayatou. After the talks, Hayatou told PANA that Libya would soon be able to host CAF games after the lifting of the international embargo against it over the Lockerbie Affair. Hayatou also held talks with the vice-president of the Libyan Olympic Committee and president of the Libyan Football Association (LFA), al-Saadi Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, on ways and means of revamping and consolidating cooperation between LFA and CAF. [PANA]

Friday: 7 May, 1999: A leading Arab financial services company, badly hit by U.S. sanctions against four of its key customers, said on Thursday it had high hopes for business in Libya once the boycott was lifted. The general manager of Bahrain-based Arab Financial Services (AFS) said the Libyan market was his company's biggest before sanctions were imposed in 1992 when total sales had hit $500 million. ``We are hoping that the United States of America will lift sanctions on Libya. We are optimistic that U.S.-Libyan relations will resume shortly for the interest of both countries,'' Koofi said. Last month, a team from Visa International visited Bahrain for talks with AFS on the possible resumption of sales of Visa cards in Libya. [Reuters]
Friday: 7 May, 1999: The U.S. State Department denied on Wednesday a report that officials from its office responsible for Libya met with Libyan representatives in Rome. The London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported the meeting on Wednesday and said it was part of an attempt to turn a ``new page'' in relations between the two countries, which do not have diplomatic relations. ``No one from the Egypt and North Africa office has met with Libyan officials in Rome,'' a State Department official said. But he said he could not speak for all branches of the U.S. administration. ``Have other officials from the U.S. government met with Libyans? I'm not going to deny that anyone has, but certainly no one that I deal with in this building has,'' he said. [Reuters]
Thursday: 6 May, 1999: Libyan and U.S. officials have held secret talks in Italy in a bid to turn a ``new page'' in relations between the two countries, a London-based Arab newspaper said on Wednesday. ``The (newspaper) has learned that...Libya's ambassador to Italy had taken part in these talks, which also included officials from the State Department's Libyan affairs desk,'' said Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, monitored in Bahrain. The paper said the ambassador had earlier had talks with British officials mediated by Egyptian officials. The newspaper did not say when the discussions took place. [Reuters]
Thursday: 6 May, 1999: Zambian President Frederick Chiluba on Wednesday ended a visit to Libya during which he held talks with Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi on efforts to forge a truce in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Libyan state radio said. Chiluba had arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday and held talks with Qadhafi upon his arrival, the radio said. [Reuters]
Thursday: 6 May, 1999: Libya said on Wednesday it was sending a mediator to conduct shuttle diplomacy in a bid to resolve the Yugoslav crisis. Ahmed al-Sharif, current Secretary-General of the Libyan-backed World Muslim Organisation, would meet all the parties involved in Kosovo, a spokesman for the Libyan foreign ministry told Reuters. Earlier, Libyan officials had said that contacts were being made with the Kosovo Liberation Army. Sharif was appointed special mediator for Kosovo this week after Libya said the Yugoslav government might accept the presence of troops from some NATO countries as part of a peacekeeping force in Kosovo. [Reuters]
Thursday: 6 May, 1999: A senior Libyan official Wednesday said the recent handover of two Lockerbie bombing suspects should lead to the resumption of Libya's relations with the United States and Britain. ``We are ready for any bilateral meeting that would lead to the normalization of ties and the settlement of any problem that might be raised,'' Hassouna Chaouch, Libyan Deputy-Secretary (junior minister) for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation told Reuters in a telephone interview. Chaouch said there were already bilateral contacts between Libyan and British officials, but he was more evasive on possible contacts with U.S. officials. ``Contacts with the United States are now made possible, and we expect good from them. We are ready to establish full (diplomatic) ties with America,'' he said. [Reuters]

Tuesday: 4 May, 1999: Libya plans to build a tourist complex costing 20 million Libyan dinars in the Tellil-Sabratha area, 70 km west of Tripoli. The complex is expected to have 150 chalets, a 50-room hotel, a restaurant, reception rooms, a sports hall, a swimming pool, a mosque, one desalination plant and another one for processing liquid waste. The building which will cover 10 hectares by completion in 30 months, is cofinanced by the Libyan insurance company 'Libya', four commercial banks and the Libyan National Development Bank. Tripoli is making moves to diversify the Libyan economy since the worldwide shortfall in the price of oil which accounts for more than 90 percent of the country's GNP. [PANA]
Tuesday: 4 May, 1999: OAU current chairman and Burkinabe President, Blaise Compaore, Friday received a special message from Libyan leader, Col. Mu'mmar al-Qadhafi in Ouagadougou. Libyan vice-minister of African affairs, Ali Abdu-Salam Triki, who delivered the message, later said in a press statement that Qadhafi urged Compaore to continue his efforts towards the settlement of the crises in the Great Lakes and Sierra Leone. Triki said his discussions with Compaore focused on peace and security in Africa as well as Libya's mediation effort in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [PANA]
Tuesday: 4 May, 1999: Chad is to withdraw its troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they are deployed to back President Laurent Kabila's fight against a rebellion, the government here said Friday. Earlier this month, Chadian President Idriss Deby was a co-signatory to a DRC ceasefire deal brokered in Libya. [Sapa-AFP]
A new issue of "al-Muslim," the voice of "The Libyan Islamic Group"

Saturday: 1 May, 1999: Libya asked the U.N. Security Council Friday to force the United States to hand over nine Americans it accuses of murder in a 1986 bombing of two Libyan cities. The request came three weeks after Libya complied with a Security Council demand that it hand over two Libyans the United States and Britain say planted a bomb aboard a Pan Am jet in 1988, killing 270 people. Libya wants the U.S. government to hand over nine Americans it blames for the 1986 bombing of the capital, Tripoli, and the port Benghazi. Libya says a total of 31 people were killed. [Reuters]
Saturday: 1 May, 1999: The United States Friday reaffirmed its designation of Libya, Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Syria as states sponsoring terrorism. Libya, Cuba, Syria and North Korea were kept on the list of countries sponsering terrorism, although officials said these states had not directly sponsored extremist acts for some years, raising fresh questions about the political nature of the terrorism list designations. [Reuters]
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