Gaddafi in Belgium
27 April 2004 BRUSSELS - Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi made an historic visit to Belgium on Tuesday, his first official trip outside of Africa and the Middle East since 1989.
The trip is the latest in a series of high profile moves by the Libyan leader to end his country’s status as a ‘pariah’ state.
After landing in Belgium, Gaddafi was driven to the European Commission’s Brussels headquarters where he shook hands with Commission President Romano Prodi in front of photographers and TV news crews.
At one point a security guard had to bundle away a demonstrator who tried to hand Gadaffi what appeared to be a white envelope.
Afterwards an EU official said the man had been trying to offer his support to the Libyan leader.
But despite the smiles, Gaddafi’s visit remains controversial.
On Monday Amnesty International issued a statement in which it said Libya still fails to respect human rights and that a “climate of fear” reigns in the north African state.
EU officials said Prodi and other senior EU politicians would try to raise issues like human rights during meetings with Gaddafi on Tuesday.
But they conceded that international politics, in particular the fight against terrorism and the Middle East peace process, would be the main subject for discussion.
Gadaffi’s Brussels trip comes just days after the United States said that it intends to ease nearly 20 years of sanctions against Libya.
It also follows the recent high-profile visit of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to Gaddafi in Libya.
On Tuesday evening the Libyan leader was set to have dinner with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Over the past year Libya has tried to end its international isolation, notably by publicly abandoning efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction and by agreeing to pay-outs to the families of passengers killed in the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland and a 1989 attack on a French airliner over Niger.
It was these moves that led to Blair’s Libya visit and Washington’s recent announcement.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news