Thursday, October 21, 2004

Gadhafi to Schroeder: Pay up!

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently visited Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to come to an agreeement regarding German investment in Libya. Instead, Gadhafi told Schroeder that Germany must pay compensation for World War Two era landmines planted in Libya.

Poor Gerhard Schroeder. Just when he thought he was making progress pushing German business and political interests with the new all smiling, all friendly Libya, the hand of history brought him back down to earth with a jolt.

During his tete-a-tete with Moammar Gadhafi last week, the German chancellor was told in no uncertain terms to pay Erwin Rommel's debt, as the Libyan leader demanded compensation for thousands of land mines buried in Libyan soil during World War II which are still killing and maiming people today.

Schroeder can consider himself somewhat unfortunate. Many of the mines currently lying around the Libyan desert are British and there is no record of Gadhafi chastising Tony Blair on the subject during his visit to Tripoli earlier this year.

But the substantial business contracts that Schroeder's visit looks set to generate will no doubt herald the beginning of a happier relationship with Libya. The visit saw the signing of a $224 million deal for German industrial conglomerate Siemens to modernize Libya's electricity network, and German oil group Wintershall already has substantial drilling contracts in Libya which it expects to increase. So aside from the land mine issue and differences over Iraq, Schroeder's mission was a success. Germany has jumped to the head of the pack of Western countries that are now quite legitimately courting business links with the former rogue regime.


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