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To: risk
The dangers of Gaddafi
(Filed: 11/02/2004)

It is a median position perfectly in tune with Tony Blair's determination to straddle transatlantic divisions. In receiving the Libyan foreign minister in Downing Street yesterday, he was rewarding Muammar Gaddafi for abandoning plans to develop weapons of mass destruction.

That concession, announced last December, was a tremendous coup for American and British diplomats, backed by the demonstration in Iraq of their willingness to use military power against rogue states. In dealing with Libya, Britain has taken the lead in offering incentives, from re-establishing diplomatic relations to agreeing to a meeting between the Prime Minister and Col Gaddafi. Washington, by contrast, abstained on the vote authorising the lifting of United Nations sanctions and has kept its own embargo in place, pending what George W Bush has called "verification of concrete steps" towards disarmament.

As with Iran and Syria, Mr Blair, while staying in close touch with the Americans, has adopted a more conciliatory approach. This plays well with those within the Labour Party and the European Union who would damn the Prime Minister as being Mr Bush's poodle.

Yet Mr Blair's record of "constructive engagement" with recalcitrant Islamic states is not impressive. The reformers in Iran, on whom Britain pinned its hopes, appear to be heading for defeat in next week's parliamentary elections, and the promise of change in Syria offered by the death of Hafiz al-Assad has not been fulfilled by his son, Bashar.

Nobody would deny that Col Gaddafi has travelled a long way since his designation by Ronald Reagan as "the mad dog of the Middle East": the surrender of the Lockerbie suspects, compensation for the victims, renunciation of terrorism, and now the abandonment of WMD.

Even so, Britain has still to receive a satisfactory explanation of the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984. And although the regime in Tripoli has changed, it remains a dictatorship with a poor human rights record. Taking a leaf from Washington's book, the Prime Minister should beware lest his enthusiasm for the middle way runs ahead of reality.
6 posted on 02/11/2004 2:00:29 AM PST by risk
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To: risk
Iranian-Americans in LA protest Iran's hard-line government
Associated Press
Posted on Wed, Feb. 11, 2004

[No pics yet, alas!]

LOS ANGELES - Thousands of Iranian-Americans rallied in opposition to Iran's hard-line government Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Nearly 3,000 attended a rally outside the federal building in Los Angeles' Westwood section, police said. About 1,500 then marched while calling for a boycott of Iran's legislative elections on Feb. 20.

Iran's governing council recently disqualified hundreds of reformist candidates. The action drew strong protests from reformist lawmakers and criticism from President Mohammad Khatami, but several attempts to get all candidates reinstated failed.

Tuesday's protests were designed to show solidarity with reformist candidates, many of whom are pledging to boycott the election, activists said.

Protesters also want Western nations to distance themselves from Iran's oppressive government.

"The message is change," said Iman Foroutan, a spokesman for the Iran of Tomorrow Movement, a reformist group based in Los Angeles. "The people in Iran are ready to take matters into their own hands. All they need is ... moral support and pressure from other countries on the government."

The protest, held by a coalition of opposition groups and media outlets, coincided with this week's 25th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, during which religious clerics overthrew the American-backed shah and seized power. The hard-liners promised democracy but have ruled with an iron hand.

The three-hour march snarled traffic but was peaceful, police Sgt. Terri Brinkmeyer said. No arrests were made.
7 posted on 02/11/2004 2:05:15 AM PST by risk
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