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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 19,131     71
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Col Mu'amar al-Qadhafi

Update No: 019 - (31/05/05)

Bulgaria's Key to Euro Mediterranean Partnership for Libya, AIDS and Diplomacy
The issue of the five Bulgarian nurses sentenced to death for injecting hundreds of children with the HIV virus is one of the last remaining obstacles between better relations between Libya and the European Union. After the diplomatic breakthroughs of late 2003 and the frequent visits of European leaders to Tripoli, from Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac it seemed as if Libya had succeeded in gaining access to all the privileges of an enhanced relationship with the international community after the obscure decade of sanctions that caused its oil production levels to decline. In the last few months, however, the thorny issue of the Bulgarian nurses, overshadowed by the novelty of recognizing that Libya and the United States, where Col. Qadhafi was deemed a 'mad dog', had re-established diplomatic and oil industry links, has steadily come to the fore for its strategic importance in Libya's relations with the outside world and Europe in particular. The Bulgarian medics and a Palestinian doctor face death sentences by firing squad, even though their confessions were obtained under torture. The Supreme Court in Tripoli will give what could be the final ruling on the matter - unless Col. Qadhafi himself intervenes - at the end of May. After a protracted diplomatic and humanitarian efforts by lawyers and calls to Libya from world leaders, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov has strategically chosen to visit Qadhafi for the final weekend prior to the Supreme Court's ruling. 
There is no question that the visit is intended to help influence the decision of the Court, as well as improving ties. While, the case has provoked strong feelings in both Bulgaria and Libya itself, where protesters brandished signs urging for the punishment of the medics in Benghazi, the case has created a major block to European Union-Libyan ties. Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam noted as much by telling reporters outside Gaddafi's tent at his Tripoli compound that he is hoping for a positive outcome such as "to put the case behind us". However, Shalgam also noted his government could not intervene in the legal process, but repeated it could be settled if the victims were paid financial compensation, or so-called blood money - a normal practice in Libya where tribal rules often weigh heavily on the justice system. The families then can waive a death sentence. This is not a new 'solution, as it has been proposed with some insistence early in the year. Bulgaria has refused, saying that this would amount to admitting guilt, and it insists the nurses are not guilty. Parvanov's visit is the latest and strongest move to try to secure the release of the medics who have been in jail since 1999.
If Bulgaria might be dismissed before, it carries more diplomatic weight now, as in 2007 it is expected to join the European Union, which has already judged the Libyan verdicts over the medics as "unfair and absurd" insisting the charges be dropped. The EU does not accept the evidence under which the nurses were convicted on scientific grounds, and is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. Indeed, the EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner flew to Tripoli before Parvanov's visit to discuss the case with Gaddafi and urge him to free the medical workers. The EU is to give the Benghazi hospital European technology and expertise to treat HIV/Aids sufferers, and Ferrero-Waldner's visit on Wednesday was partly designed as a gesture of solidarity with Libya. Another issue that will depend on the Supreme Court's decision is one concerning Libya's interest in joining the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (Euromed), an EU initiative to boost political and economic links between the bloc and its neighbours around the Mediterranean basin. Tripoli's accession to Euromed now hinges on its favourable and prompt resolution of the Bulgarian nurses Aids trial. 
Meanwhile, even as protesters met visiting Parvanov with slogans and chants in favour of executing the Bulgarian nurses, a week before, families of the 400 children at the heart of the case children affected by the AIDS virus led an open food strike in Benghazi to draw attention to what they called the country's silence towards the "AIDS massacre". The move was evidently taken to embarrass Libyan authorities, over their AIDS treatment facilities and policies. The protesters had earlier approached the secretariat of the general people's committee in which they demanded full support to them and ensure health care to their children. Families had received little or no support in treating their AIDS infected children from Libyan authorities. So far five of the more than 400 children have died. The last was 7 year old, who died two weeks ago in one of the Italian hospital affiliates to the Vatican, after the Libyan authorities refused to provide help to him and to his father. This obliged the father to head for the Italian church, which paid all treatment costs until the death of the child, according to the gathering parents. The food strike is significant as, it shifted attention away from the nurses pointing it to the Libyan authorities instead implying that the Libyan government is to blame for its weak and ineffective AIDS treatment polices. 

Praise from Human Rights Watch
Libya attracted favourable international attention from a report by the American based organization Human Rights Watch, which commended it for measures taken by Libya to improve its human rights record in the past year. The organization noted there are outstanding issues, however, but conceded that some of Libya's internal actions matched the 'friendlier' image it has been promoting abroad. It is interesting to note that Human Rights Watch visited Libya on an invitation from the Libyan government itself, which was considered a sign of welcome transparency. Since the Lockerbie trial ended in 1999 and UN sanctions were removed, Libya has tried to improve its human rights image. Authorities have released political prisoners and have separated the ministries of justice and public security, to promote independence of the judiciary. In 2004, the government closed the People's Court, an extraordinary court that tried political cases with inadequate due-process guarantees. The court offered detainees, though the practice may continue, limited access to legal representation at the time of arrest, and security forces sometimes obtain confessions in police stations and internal security facilities through psychological and physical abuse. The Bulgarian nurses involved in the Benghazi AIDS trial, in fact, claim they confessed after this type of 'trial'. The government is also reviewing the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure aiming to reduce the number of crimes punishable by death. In addition, the authorities have established commissions to investigate the June 1996 riot in Abu Selim prison, in which an unknown number of prisoners died, and to probe the "possible existence" of political prisoners, although the commission did not indicate how it would conduct investigations. 

Oil Industry Developments
Meanwhile, Abdullah el Badri, Chairman of Libya's National Oil Company NOC said the Libyan government will soon open the second oil and gas round of bidding, which includes 26 energy contracts. The winners of the 44 oil and gas onshore and offshore blocks will be announced next October. There is little doubting NOC's confidence in a successful round as it sets out to promote it with road shows in London and in Tripoli for what is expected to be an overall larger offer considering Libya's multi-billion barrel reserves. American companies won the lion's share in the last round and they may well be favoured in the coming one, even if European oil majors have a strong foothold in Libya. Libyan officials have been careful to dispel rumours of favouring U.S. companies stressing the openness of the bidding process. The US companies, Marathon Oil Corp., Amerada Hess Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which make up the Oasis group - Wahha - have not yet reached an agreement over the terms of the concession. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch/Shell Group reached a comprehensive agreement for gas exploration and liquefaction with NOC, its first major project in the country in 30 years.

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Shell to upgrade Libyan natural gas plant

Energy giant Shell recently confirmed its return to Libya. It agreed the terms of its first major project in the country for 30 years. A partnership with Libya's National Oil will see Shell "rejuvenate and upgrade" a liquefied natural gas plant on the Libyan coast. It will also explore five areas in the oil and gas-producing region of Sirte Basin. The agreement came a year after National Oil and shell announced they were in talks about a long-term strategic partnership, New Europe reported.
Shell had operations in Libya between the 1950s and 1974 - when the country's oil industry was nationalised. The Anglo-Dutch group did carry out some exploration work in the late 1980s. The Executive Director for Exploration and Production, Malcolm Brinded, said shell will rejuvenate and upgrade the Marsa Al-Brega LNG plant at a minimum cost of GBP 55.4m, rising to a possible GBP 237.6m. That could increase the plant output from 0.7m tonnes per annum to some 3.2m tonnes a year. The agreement also grants Shell gas exploration rights in five blocks, covering 20,000 square kilometres at a cost of GBP 98.7m.

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