By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 14 December:
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has said that security was the prime objective of his six-day visit to . . .[restrict]four neighbouring states this week — Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.
Speaking this afternoon, Friday, on his return from the Sudanese capital Khartoum, he said that agreement had been made in principle with the countries visited to secure Libya’s borders and set up joint border forces. “We will start operating joint controls,” he said.
Given the current trafficking of people, arms and drugs across Libya’s southern borders, security had to be at the heart of relations with its neighbours, he said. “We’re concerned about security in the Sahel countries.” In the case of Algeria, he added, “three-quarters of relations are about security”.
He announced there was to be a four-nation conference on Sahara security and border control involving Libya, Niger, Chad and Sudan. No date was given.
For its part, Libya would crack down hard on smuggling, he said. It was causing severe problems. Referring to recent protests in Sebha, he said that people in the south of the country were complaining about security and illegal immigration. He announced that controls would be stepped up at a number of southern border crossings and that any caravan crossing into Libya by any other route would “dealt with” by aircraft or by land forces. Exactly how that would be done was not mentioned.
Rebuffing those Libyans who in reaction against Qaddafi’s obsession with Africa want as little to do with it as possible, he said that Libya “will not abandon Africa. It will not turn its back on it.”
Libya would build a positive relationship with its neighbours, he declared. The message he had conveyed to each of the four countries visited was that Libya wanted to be good neighbours with them. It was going back to its pre-1969 relationship with them. It would no longer interfere in their internal affairs “exporting revolution, sedition and its political views”. Relations would not be based “on political propaganda”. In any event, Libya was now focussed on its own internal affairs, specifically the health service, education and creating economic prosperity.
Focussing specifically on Libyan investments across Africa, he said that in future there would be no repetition of Qaddafi’s attempts to buy influence and friends across the continent — no “squandering of Libyan money” — just legitimate, proper investment. Existing investments, however, would be reviewed to see if there had been corruption involved — as would be all bilateral agreements. Libyan investment officials in Niger and Chad whom he had met had been told about it.
“This will apply to all African countries,” he warned.
Zeidan was accompanied on the four-nation tour by the Minister of International Cooperation and acting head of the foreign ministry, Mohamed Abdel Aziz. The International Cooperation Ministry is to be in charge of tracking down and investigating Libya’s investments in Africa and elsewhere.
The prime minister was also accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Yousef Mangoiush, head of intelligence Salem Hassi as well as the heads of two Interior Ministry departments.
In all four countries visited, Zeidan said there has been an enthusiastic welcome for the revolution. In Algeria, he said, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had “congratulated us” on the revolution and wished the Libyan people well in their future progress. In Niger, there had been similar applause for the revolution. Chad, whose President Idriss Deby turned up with the entire cabinet to meet him at the airport, had expressed relief that it would no longer be subject to Qaddafi’s interference and threats. It had suffered years of it, Zeidan said.
The same sentiments were expressed in Sudan, where he met with President Omer Al-Bashir, Vice President Ali Osman Taha, all the government ministers and a number of members of parliament.
In Algeria, where Zeidan arrived last Sunday, he also met the Speaker of the Algerian parliament as well as a number of MPs. Mangoush met with the Algerian Defence Minister and Chief of Staff. The other Libyan officials also met with their Algerian counterparts.
The Algerian government, the Prime Minister said, had offered military cooperation and training and would shortly be sending instructors to Libya. It also wanted economic cooperation. In the case of Sudan, 450 to 500 army and police officers would be trained there.
Regarding the position of the Qaddafi family living in Algeria — Qaddafi’s widow Safia, daughter Aisha and sons Mohamed and Hanibal — and Saadi in Niger, Zeidan said that the matter had been discussed and that both countries had “categorically” assured him that they would not be permitted to endanger Libya’s security, move around or speak to the media.
Libya, he said, had requested their extradition but had to wait for the law to take its course. There were a number of legal hurdles to be cleared.
Asked why he had not visited Libya’s two other neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt, where security was also an issue, the Prime Minister pointed out that the president of Congress, Mohamed Magarief had been in Tunisia recently. In the case of Egypt, with its present political crisis, he did not think it was able to receive anyone. [/restrict]