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" Comments on the mid-June N.Y. meeting and the ensuing controversy"

Dear Dr. Ibrahim:

          First, I would like to praise and salute your efforts in developing a homepage on the Internet. Your web site has become the primary source of information for expatriate Libyans all around the world. It is also an invaluable source for those in Libya who have access to the Internet.

          As you know, the Libyan Ambassador to the United Nations has initiated several meetings with members of the Libyan American community. It is my opinion that this initiative is his own, and I also believe that his motive in beginning this dialogue is fourfold:

          1. to impress his overlord by demonstrating that he is working hard to exploit the Libyan American community and receive some kind of advancement or reward for the furtherance of his regime's political purposes;

          2. to divide and conquer the Libyan American community and to promote discontent, disputes and acrimony in our community;

          3. to oversimplify, trivialize and obscure the true nature of Libya's national problems by characterizing these problems as merely concerns over obtaining passports, acquiring Arab texts for the education of our children, etc.

          Those Libyans who left Libya to live in other countries did not leave because they had no passports or because they had no food to eat; they left to avoid the political oppressions of a regime that has no respect for human dignity or basic human rights. They left because they reject autocracy and despotism. If they had been free to express their true opinions, they would not have left. The Qaddafi regime has been notorious for prohibiting free speech, and its oppressive policies have even amounted to a form of thought control. In other words, Libyans have been prevented from even conceiving opinions antithetical to Qaddafi's dictates.

          The minutes of the first meeting with the Ambassador state the following as an objective of this initiative: to facilitate "consulate needs" and "passport services" and to make entering and exiting Libya easier by issuing "identification cards." Promoting such identification amounts to the flagrant announcement of a police state. Such a conclusion can be supported by the extreme measures taken at customs checkpoints in Libyan airports or on their borders. A visitor must run a gauntlet of no less than seven security agencies exists before entering or exiting Libya.

           Another issue that bothers me is the claim among some of those who met with the Ambassador that they cannot be classified under any political umbrella or human rights group. These people don't want to be associated with Libyan opposition groups. At the same time, they would like to give the impression that they are not associated with the regime. In fact, though, they are only misleading themselves, because meeting with the Ambassador is a form of de facto involvement with that political regime. By meeting with the Ambassador, they cannot help but support the stated goals of his initiative. For example, one of the objectives of the meeting was "presenting the true image of Libya"; in other words, the Ambassador wants to improve Qaddafi's status and sell a new image of him to the world. This is a political circus whose only purpose is to endorse the current regime.

          For Qaddafi, the end will always justify the means. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to open a new chapter with the West. In his appeal to the West, he acts like a frightened mouse who uses false humility and begging to survive. But when he talks to the Libyan people, he suddenly becomes a tiger who growls and enforces his will. Obviously, he fears disestablishment and overthrow.

          Qaddafi is trying to beguile the Western powers into reconciliation with his regime. He wants and desperately needs to do business with the West. He is begging to be readmitted to the international community and is willing to take any action, no matter how nefarious, to achieve this aim. Paradoxically, however, he is not willing to reconcile with the Libyan people, who have suffered the most and continue to suffer from his systematic destruction of their lives and the Libyan nation. He shows no signs that he is interested in such a reconciliaton; in fact, he disrespectfully refers to Libyan expatriates as "stray dogs."

          If Qaddafi has truly realized the corrupt nature of his regime, then he must renounce his oppressive policies and ask the Libyan people for reconciliation and dialogue. Libya needs the immediate release of thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. They need the freedom to choose their own government, free and independent justice, a free press, free elections, and free expression. Of course, these freedoms are impossible to achieve overnight; however, we at least deserve the right to begin building the proper foundation to support these freedoms.

          Dialogue is acceptable if it deals directly with the Libyan national problems. But if the "dialogue" is just a whitewash of these problems, then it is no dialogue at all.

Best regards,

Lamin F. El-harati                                                                                 July 16, 1999

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