Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's Over

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV, have been freed at last. They've been held in a Libyan jail for eight years, and at one stage were sentenced to death. But now they've been released as part of what's being described as a "full partnership" deal between Libya and the EU, of which Bulgaria is now a member.

This is Libya's latest step on the road to normal relations with Europe and other western countries. After years of sanctions following his bolshy behaviour in the 80s, and his subsequent refusal to hand over the Lockerbie bombing suspects, Libya's leader Colonel Gadaffi realised it was better to be on the inside rather than the outside in international relations, not least to help shore up his own domestic dictatorship. Following the Lockerbie trial, and then his decision to give up Libya's weapons of mass destruction programmes, this is another move towards becoming a regular sort of country again.

In typical Gadaffi style though, it's come at a price. The EU's now promising more medical aid and closer political ties to Tripoli, which can only make life better for ordinary Libyans, and therefore make their leader more popular. The canny way he's handled these moves to bring Libya back into the global fold, should make sure Gadaffi stays in power for the foreseeable future.

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