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Europe

European Press Review: Lessons from Libya

Various European editorialists have used the word “pragmatic” to describe Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s decision to abandon his country’s weapons of mass destruction program.

"Libya’s opposition has little doubt that Gadhafi’s ‘miraculous transformation’ from a radical anti-imperialist to a philanthropic, Western-friendly statesman is a mere survival strategy," wrote the Austrian Salzburger Nachrichten. "What’s really behind that decision," the paper added, "is a decade of international sanctions." Ghadafi presents himself as a pragmatist, the paper concluded, "but he really lacks the money and the know-how that would allow him to pursue the weapons program."

During the past 35 years, the Libyan leader has always been unpredictable," observed Austria’s Der Standard, "but he has become more pragmatic in recent years." What might have contributed to this development, the Austrian paper wrote, is the fact that the air is getting thinner for the likes of Ghadafi. "Only undemocratic regimes that cooperate with the U.S., like Libya’s neighbor Tunisia, can continue to violate human rights and democracy, the paper concluded.

"Ghadafi has used the opportunity to slip into the winner’s camp," wrote the Bulgarian paper Dnewnik. "And that’s because he has seen what happens to those who are conquered by the U.S.: they are being imprisoned, shaved and indicted."

The British Independent wrote that while the return of a prodigal son Ghadafi should be welcomed, "it should not prevent observers to ask some valid questions about the unexpected move." The paper argued that the timing of the announcement, only a few days before Christmas and only 24 hours after Washington abandoned the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, raises suspicions that the event might be "staged and dramatized" by Britain and the U.S.

"If Libya can do it, why not Israel," asked Britain’s Guardian newspaper, adding that the world can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to Israel, the world’s fifth-largest nuclear power. "In the old-days," wrote the British paper, "Israel might have been surrounded by potential foes who denied its right to exist." But with Saddam gone, there’s little threat left, the paper charged. Israel’s nuclear capabilities only give rogue groups within the few remaining rogue states more reason for developing, stealing or buying such weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, the Holland’s De Volkskrant commented on what it described as America and Britain’s "carrot and stick" approach -- the threat of war combined with the prospect of loosening sanctions should Libya indeed carry out its plan of abandoning its weapons program. "The breakthrough in Libya, wrote the paper, "comes only shortly after the European diplomatic victory in Iran, where Teheran agreed to international nuclear inspections." Both cases demonstrate that European and American policies might well supplement each other, the paper argued.