By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 28 September:
The Libyan government has categorically denied reports that it has offered Lebanon $1 billion to drop the . . .[restrict]case of the Lebanese imam Musa Sadr who disappeared with two colleagues while on a visit to Libya in 1978.
Prime Minister-elect and current deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur told the Libya Herald that there was no truth whatsoever to the report. “First, Libyans have not committed a crime against Lebanon and the Libyan government will not pay anything to anyone because we didn’t commit the crime. This crime was committed by Qaddafi who is dead and buried now and his followers are receiving prosecution”, he said.
The report first surfaced last week in the Lebanese newspaper Addiyar but was then reproduced by the media in Iran as well as some papers in Libya. It was claimed that members of the Lebanese government had met with an unnamed Arab delegation which had been authorised by Libya to pay the $1 billion. The money was to be wired to the Lebanese government’s account if it agreed to discontinue its investigations into the Imam’s disappearance. The funds were, supposedly, not to go to Imam’s heirs but to be spent in south Lebanon, home to a large number of Shiites.
The Addiyar report said, however, that Lebanon had rejected the offer, demanding instead that Libya confess to the murder of Sadr and his two colleagues, Sheikh Mohammad Yacoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine, and return their bodies.
It is unclear how the story first developed. Addiyar has a reputation of being pro-Syrian regime. There are suspicions that this latest twist in the Sadr saga is intended to embarrass Libya which has strongly supported the uprising against the Assad regime.
However, the question of what happened to Sadr remains a sensitive issue in Lebanon that politicians there cannot ignore. Iranian-born Sadr, who had been invited to Tripoli by Muammar Qaddafi to join in his 1 September celebrations to mark the anniversary of his 1969 coup, founded Lebanon’s powerful Shiite party Amal and was also a spiritual leader of the country’s now dominant Shiite community.
Although it is firmly believed that he and his two companions were murdered on Qaddafi’s personal orders after a row between him and the imam, a significant number of Lebanese Shiites cling to the belief that Sadr is still alive and held in a Libyan jail.
Since the Libyan revolution, the Lebanese government has been pressing the Libyan authorities over what happened to him. In April, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, who personally believes Sadr is still alive in Libya, was in Tripoli as part of the official Lebanese investigation into the Imam’s disappearance. Reports in Beirut say he will be back in Libya in a few days’ time to continue the investigations. It also emerged earlier this month that before Abdullah Senussi was extradited to Libya from Mauretania, Mansour questioned him in jail there about the case.
Last week, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati met with General National Congress President Mohamed Magarief on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York and told him of the importance for Lebanon of achieving closure on the Sadr case. [/restrict]