The golden handshake: Brave step or a cynical ploy?

Tony Blair offered Muammar Gaddafi the "hand of friendship" in a desert tent outside Tripoli yesterday as he held historic talks with the Libyan leader aimed at ending the 20-year isolation of the pariah state and recruiting it as a partner in the war on terror.

Tony Blair offered Muammar Gaddafi the "hand of friendship" in a desert tent outside Tripoli yesterday as he held historic talks with the Libyan leader aimed at ending the 20-year isolation of the pariah state and recruiting it as a partner in the war on terror.

The Prime Minister praised Colonel Gaddafi as an example of international rehabilitation and praised his adoption of "a common cause" with the West in the fight against al-Qa'ida, extremism and terrorism.

In an attempt to stress the value of the rapprochement, British diplomats said the two countries were already sharing intelligence on North African groups linked to Osama Bin Laden. British businesses have also begun a rush to exploit Libyan oil and gas reserves potentially worth billions. The Anglo-Dutch energy giant Shell signed an agreement yesterday to invest $200m (£110m) searching for fuel reserves - and the aircraft and defence contractor BAE is hoping to land multimillion-pound deals to supply civil aviation equipment.

But the return of Libya to the international fold has, in some quarters, been criticised as a cynical stunt. Critics argue that Col Gaddafi's decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction is a welcome distraction from the continuing problems faced by the occupying forces in Iraq.

They also point out that the country's capacity and willingness to develop and deploy WMDs has been exaggerated to make the diplomatic breakthrough appear much more significant - and that Libya never posed much of a threat.

The Conservative leader, Michael Howard, said: "To give Colonel Gaddafi this huge propaganda coup and to call him courageous for giving up terrorism is quite extraordinary."

At his traditional encampment outside Tripoli, Mr Blair held two hours of talks with Col Gaddafi in a symbolic meeting designed to reward the leader for renouncing nuclear and chemical weapons programmes. He said Col Gaddafi had given "full and transparent co-operation" to weapons inspectors.

The meeting represented a remarkable rehabilitation for Col Gaddafi, once a global hate figure branded the "Mad Dog of the Middle East."

For decades, the North African state has been vilified for sponsoring terrorism. Libya was blamed for the killing of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984. Three years later, Libyan weapons bound for the IRA were intercepted on the arms ship the Eksund. The following year, the finger was again pointed at Libya after the downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.

Anti-terrorist officers from Scotland Yard are going to Libya to investigate the murder of police constable Yvonne Fletcher following the thaw in relations

Mr Blair's visit has attracted criticism from, among others, Amnesty International with attention being drawn to Libya's human rights record, including the disappearance of prisoners, use of the death penalty and intolerance of political activity.

The Prime Minister asp announced a new era of military co-operation with Libya. He appointed a senior British Army officer, General Robin Searby, as a defenceco-ordinator with Libya under an agreement to advise and train members of the Libyan army at Sandhurst.

In return, diplomatic sources said Britain was already gaining valuable intelligence from Libya about the activities of the Libyan Islamic Fighters, an offshoot of al-Qa'ida's global network. Senior officers from MI6 are also sharing intelligence with Col Gaddafi's regime about Islamic militants in the region.

The Prime Minister said the West had to respond to regimes that repudiated WMD and terrorism. "It was strange, given the history, to come here and do this and, of course, I am conscious of the pain of people who suffered as a result of terrorist actions in the past," he said.

"But the world is changing and we have got to do everything we can to tackle the security threat that faces us and that means getting after those people who are engaged in terrorism and destroying that threat by any means we can. But it also means that, if a country is prepared to say we are going to put the past behind us we want to give up chemical and nuclear weapons capability, we want to cease our ties with terrorist groups we should be willing to open up to that and give them the hand of partnership and show that, when they do that, they get a proper response - they get a relationship which is normalised. Times change and when they do change we should be prepared to change."

Downing Street made it clear that, whatever the differences, both governments opposed fundamentalism. A spokesman said: "What we agree on is the need to unite to recognise the problems posed to the world by fundamentalism."

Suggested Topics
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition