Monday, March 16, 2009

Libya Complains

By Editorial New York Times, 15/03/2009

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi did the right thing five years ago in deciding to end Libya’s illicit nuclear and chemical weapons programs. Since then, he and his aides have not stopped complaining that they did not get a big enough payoff.

Last week, Libyan officials told our colleague Michael Slackman that Washington had failed to deliver on promises of conventional weapons sales, civilian nuclear cooperation and help in destroying chemical weapons. They also expressed hurt that the State Department continues to catalog Libyan human rights abuses.

Those complaints are particularly outrageous and offensive to the victims of past Libyan terrorism and to those still suffocating under the colonel’s arbitrary rule, which includes routine torture, disappearances and a ban on all political party activity.

Colonel Qaddafi’s decision to come clean on his weapons programs was part of a broader repositioning meant to ease pressures on his government. Tripoli also belatedly acknowledged its responsibility for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and offered compensation to the families of its 270 victims.

Tripoli fulfilled the conditions the international community had set for its rehabilitation, and it has been rewarded. In 2004, the United States lifted economic sanctions. Two years later it removed Tripoli from the list of terrorist states and renewed diplomatic relations. When France agreed to sell Libya civilian nuclear reactors in 2007, Washington raised no objections or obstacles.

Libya, not Washington, canceled the deal for help destroying its chemical weapons — after complaining about the cost and liability terms. It has since proceeded on its own. Fine. Libya can certainly afford to pay the whole cost, and Washington can put its finite funds for securing and destroying weapons to better use. Libya is legally entitled to buy defensive and transport-related military equipment from the United States, and the Pentagon recently said it was ready to discuss such sales. If Libya wants Washington to stop citing it for human rights violations, all it has to do is stop committing them.

We hope that other countries, notably Iran, eventually follow Libya’s example and give up their nuclear weapons ambitions. The United States and its allies have plenty of valuable economic, diplomatic and security incentives they should be offering in good faith.

If accepted, those commitments must be fulfilled. But even grand bargains do not require blank checks or silence on human rights abuses.