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Moammar Gadhafi
Moammar Gadhafi attends celebrations to mark his 40th year of leadershipImage: AP

European-Libyan relations

September 2, 2009

As African and Arab leaders travelled to Tripoli to join Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi in marking four decades at the helm of his country, Europe was conspicuous through its lack of high-ranking representation.


The celebrations included a show retracing the 40 years since the bloodless coup which brought Gadhafi to power in 1969.

The dignitaries who did come included Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdulla II of Jordan, African heads who had been attending an African Union summit in Libya, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Although the Libyan leader had invited a host of European leaders to join him on his big day, the only one to accept was Serbian President Boris Tadic.

Relations between Libya and the West have improved markedly over the past years, but they took a knock last month over Tripoli's response to the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds last month, was given a hero's welcome when he arrived back on Libyan ground.

Video of convicted terrorist

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi at an airport in Tripoli
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi at an airport in TripoliImage: AP

Not attending themselves, European leaders sent various representatives. A Western diplomat said they had agreed they would walk out of the festivities if al-Megrahi himself were to show up.

But a Libyan official said the convicted terrorist would not be "participating in any way in the celebrations."

That said, the events did include the showing of a video clip of terminally ill al-Megrahi's August homecoming.

Citing the clip, which showed al-Megrahi holding hands with Ghadafi's son Seif El Islam and making a victory sign, French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet told reporters there was "no reason to create an incident."

"Obviously if things had been more provocative there would have been a reason," he said. "But the entire European community [present] did not budge."

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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