Colonel Gaddafi seeks PR firm

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The Independent Online
FOR PEOPLE who relish a challenge, perhaps this is the ultimate job. The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi - depending on who you listen to, godfather of terror, mad dictator or protector of his people - is looking to employ a public relations agency to improve his image in Britain.

Col Gaddafi, leader of Libya since 1969, was reported yesterday to be putting out feelers for an agency to work with his government to promote its hosting of the Organisation for African Unity in a few weeks. But it is believed the assignment will go further, eventually leading to a long-term campaign aimed at promoting business and educational links between Britain and Libya.

A key element to any campaign would be to improve Libya's image, tarnished among other things by the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 and the alleged involvement of its citizens in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Strategic Profile International, a London-based lobbying group, has reportedly already presented plans to Libya for a campaign that would stress cultural and academic links. "Libyans understand very well how their image has been tarnished in Britain, particularly after 15 years of no diplomatic representation as well as, frankly, propaganda during the time of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher," said a company spokesman.

Such a move would represent the latest step in the slow rehabilitation process that Libya is undertaking. In April the United Nations lifted sanctions against the country and last month Britain restored diplomatic links after Libya accepted "general responsibility" for WPC Fletcher's death.

"We expect to have an ambassador in place by the autumn," a spokesman for the Foreign Office said yesterday. "Libya will also have an ambassador in its Libyan People's Bureau in London."

Similar moves are under way in France and Italy.