2 September 2011 by Pelle Neroth
The social and economic infrastructure is all present, in the land Colonel Gaddafi ran until a few weeks ago. For all the western posturing about "the mad dog's" vicious tyranny", Libya had the highest UN Human Development Index ranking and the third largest income per capita in Africa. on par with, say, EU candidate Croatia. Life expectancy is 75 years. Compared to the West's Gulf allies, Gaddafi's secular regime granted relatively generous rights to women.
The economy actually grew by 7.5% in 2010, thanks to oil. Libyan oil was the main source of fuel for several European countries, including Italy and Austria, and Euro oil firms Repsol, Total, ENI, OMV all had concessions in the sparsely populated desert state on Europe's doorstep, Libyan crude is [known for being of excellent quality], naturally low in sulphur, so easy to refine and to adapt to the EU's strict emissions rules. The only problem was that the eccentric Gaddafi had allowed relatively little of the country's surface to be explored.
British BP started to prospect in 2007 after having heavily lobbied the Scottish government for the release of the "Lockerbie bomber", Abdel al-Megrahi , on compassionate grounds because he was supposed to be dying of cancer, a move much opposed by David Cameron. In fact, since then, evidence has emerged that suggests that, terminal cancer or not, Megrahi's original Scottish trial may have been a spectacular, even grotesque, miscarriage of justice, according to various accounts*.
The implausible prosecution case was that the bomb was planted in unaccompanied luggage by Megrahi in Malta, then changed planes twice, in Frankfurt and London, without the bomb being detected or its barometric air-pressure timer being set off, before finally exploding over Lockerbie.
Lawyer Gareth Pearce and others believe the bomb was more likely planted in London and the culprits Palestinian PFLP movement working for Iran, one of whose civilian Iran Air airbuses was accidentally shot down by a US warship in the Gulf in mid 1988. For instance, the same kind of Toshiba tape recorder, including plastic explosive, was found in the Palestinians' raided flat in Germany as was found in the wreckage.
Still, Gaddafi handed over Megrahi and paid out a handsome $2.7bn to the victims' families in 2000, in return for which he was let back into the international community; and oil deals were struck., However, in the last two years, according to US Iraqi expert Susan Lindauer, he started asking the western oil companies to compensate him for the money "wrongly" paid out.
Gaddafi had also talked of renationalising the Libyan oil wells, sidelining the international oil companies. Then the rather feeble rebellion broke out, soon helped by a NATO which misconstrued its original UN mandate from protecting civilians to actively assisting regime change.
Provided prolonged chaos does not now follow Gaddafi's fall which seems unlikely as of writing, the new leaders, the National Transitional Council, a bunch of opportunist Gaddafi defectors, Islamist groups and Monarchists, have promised to respect the oil concessions already granted; for any new contracts, however, spokesmen have indicated that the UK, Italy and France will be favoured, over China and Russia. The issue of the spoils was at the top of the agenda in the wake of the Paris meeting yesterday 1 September when EU leaders to discuss the future of Libya.
The important thing to know is that Libya's oil - the largest known resources in Africa - is relatively little exploited. Gaddafi's high profit margins disincentivised the use of technology that would maximise extraction from known oil wells, and, as said, only 25% of the country has been prospected. Oil companies have said that if the new government awards them a greater cut of the profits - say 40% instead of 10% under Gaddafi - they might be able to produce more, and that would ease Europe's oil crisis for quite a few years ahead.
* Truth about Lockerbie links, London Review of Books et al
http://tinyurl.com/23r5q9q, http://tinyurl.com/4y3ncbd, http://tinyurl.com/ydlc9t9,
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 02 September 2011 11:54 AM Energy
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