Gaddafi and Lukashenko – coming in from the cold?

November 4, 2008

Posted by Andrei Makhovsky and Salah Sarrar

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi found they had plenty in common when they met in
Minsk this week.

Both their  countries have started to come in from the cold after years of
international isolation and sanctions that were imposed on their
countries because of their policies.

They also share a vision of a multi-polar world to
counterbalance U.S. influence.

But despite their efforts to improve ties with the West,
they could not avoid a dig at Washington.

“We both see as a key issue that the world must be
multi-polar. We already know what a unipolar world leads to,” Lukashenko said.

Gaddafi, who pitched his tent at one of Lukashenko’s
residences outside Minsk after visiting Russia, said that in their discussions of international issues “our views coincide”.

Mutual praise was not in short supply at Monday’s talks.

Western punitive measures have been lifted on Tripoli while
the European Union is committed to intensified talks with
Belarus and has suspended a visa ban on Lukashenko.

Libya has emerged from the sanctions imposed in connection with the 1988 destruction of a U.S. commercial airliner that killed 270 people in Scotland
and the 1986 bombing of a West Berlin disco that killed three people.

It has since abandoned weapons of mass destruction
and declared an end to confrontation with Washington, leading to a visit in September by U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice.

Belarus may not be as far down the road to full
normalisation of ties with the West but it has started out on
that road, while remaining mindful of its traditional ties with
Russia, on whom it depends for energy supplies.

Lukashenko was long accused of hounding Belarus’s
opposition, muzzling the press and rigging elections. He has
called for better ties with the West after a row with
traditional ally Russia last year over energy prices.

The EU eased sanctions after Belarus released detainees
deemed political prisoners in August and held a parliamentary
election which Western observers said was an improvement over
earlier contests but still short of acceptable standards.

“We are happy to see your victories in the international
arena. We know how difficult it was to withstand international
sanctions illegally imposed on your people,” Lukashenko said.

Gaddafi, who went on to Ukraine after Belarus, said: “Libya has travelled down a difficult path when international sanctions were imposed on it … and it was at that time that Belarus extended the hand of friendship.”

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