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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 19,131     71
GNI per capita
 US $ n/a n/a
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Libya

Update No: 046 - (29/09/07)

Grooming the Successor: Is There Anyone Better than Seif ul-Islam
As Libya continues on its path to 'international respectability', a lingering question overshadows the improving business climate and relations with the West concerning who will one day succeed Colonel Qadhafi. Given that Qadhafi holds the position of 'Leader of the Revolution', which is supra institutional there are no formal mechanisms, neither in the legal nor constitutional sense, for rising to this post. Yet, ever since the Libyan 'Glasnost' process began in 2004, Qadhafi's son Seif ul-Islam has played an important role in favoring Libya's rapprochement with the West while acting as the public face for reforms that slowly seen private banks establish themselves in Libya in expectation of large flows of foreign investment. Seif ul-Islam is a PhD student in governance at the London School of Economics and would appear to be the final piece of the current reform process; a western educated, worldly and practical version of his ideological and controversial father. Nowhere was this more evident than at a recent speech Seif-ul Islam gave, amid the Greek ruins in Cyrene. His speech was perhaps calculated to grab attention in the West, projecting a technocratic image. Seif ul-islam is said to have delivered an impressive performance using facts and figures to back up his claims. Unlike his more flamboyant father, who has taken up various revolutionary causes throughout his career, Seif championed the greenhouse gas cause, even sending off a reminder - in a country where oil accounts for 90% of exports - that crude oil is a finite resource. He encouraged the 'green' platform to launch an ecotourism project, and spoke of the many resources that Libya has at its disposal already from fisheries to architecture. Indeed, he was actually bringing years of UNDP advice (which has long advocated Libya use its natural and archaeological wealth to develop tourism) projects and ideas, which have never seen the light of day, to their most formal acknowledgment yet. He intends to turn northeastern Libya, the Green Mountain (Jebel Akhdar), into an environmentally sustainable region, creating a national park and ecotourism opportunities, while excavating and protecting the nearby ancient temples and coast.

Seif's 'Qadhafi Foundation' has been arranging many business deals, bringing foreign investment in Libya to sectors not related to oil and was also involved in the negotiations that helped release the Bulgarian nurses in July. However, while the West and many young people would probably appreciate Seif, he has made enemies among the Revolutionary Committees, which represent, ironically, one of the very few institutions established as part of Qadhafi's 'green revolution' (nothing to do with the environment). The true mark of succession for Seif, will be when, if ever, his father also starts speaking out against the Revolutionary Committees, who exist to ensure 'Green Book' orthodoxy. Yet, in many ways, Seif and his father have been essentially guiding Libya in its reform process as two sides of the same coin. The father has in latter years, played the role of appeaser of the status quo, delivering anti-western statements when politically convenient, such as in early 2006 defending the death sentence handed to the six Bulgarian medics. Seif has spoken critically, unraveling his father's statements with even more certitude than the latter. Notably, he conceded that the Bulgarian medical workers were tortured while in prison and that they were not to blame for infecting children with HIV in Benghazi, because this was the result of poor sanitary conditions. In many ways Seif ul-Islam is a few steps ahead of Libya's current status and while he appeals to the West, it is not easy to determine whether or not he appeals to Libyans. A North African history expert at Cambridge University, George Joffe, has also suggested that while the western educated Libyan elite likes Seif, the more religiously inclined population does not. Nevertheless, there are other non-economic changes happening in Libya that suggest that an Islamic inspired opposition to reform, is maybe less intense than believed. 

Indeed, the Catholic Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, the Apostolic Vicar of the capital, Tripoli, suggested that Libya is experiencing a resurgence of religious freedom after three decades of restrictions imposed after the expulsions of Italians and other westerners from Libya in 1970. The 1969 revolution that brought Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi to power led to church buildings being confiscated and then closed down. Catholics were allowed to keep only two churches, one in Tripoli and the other in Benghazi. Libya's biggest church, in Tripoli's Algeria square, was in the very heart of Tripoli and it was converted to a mosque after the 1969 revolution. Bishop Martinelli, himself, had been jailed by the Libyan authorities in 1986 when the US bombed Tripoli. Many of the current worshippers are African migrants. Non-Catholic Christians such as Anglicans or Protestants also have their own churches. While at first sight insignificant, the greater extent of religious tolerance is a sign of social progress indicating that the greater degree of economic openness is also starting to liberalize aspects of Libya's social customs. 

When is Condoleeza Rice Going to Tripoli?
The softening attitudes at the social level will be tested, should US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attend an October meeting with Qadhafi in Tripoli, as part of multilateral talks on the Darfur issue. US officials, however, have implied that the unsettled issues, concerning the 1986 bombing of a German disco and the payment of the remaining USD 10 million to the families of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, would prevent Rice from visiting - who would be the highest-level US visitor to Libya since 1953. The United States and Libya have already reopened embassies in their respective capitals and President Bush has nominated an experienced diplomat to serve as the new American ambassador in Libya. The nomination, however, has met resistance from some members of Congress, which insists on blocking it until Libya completes the Lockerbie restitution payments and settles claims from the disco bombing in which several U.S. servicemen were killed. 

In October, Rice is expected to travel to prepare the announced American sponsored Middle East peace conference. Meanwhile, Rice was expected to meet the Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly session on September 26, but the meeting was not formally announced. Rice and Shalqam have met in person already as part of the diplomatic meetings that began as the two countries moved toward greater cooperation. In August, David Welch, the highest-ranking US Middle East diplomat, visited Tripoli to make arrangements for the trip, which was made possible by the release of the Bulgarian medics in July. 

It is likely that Shalqam and Rice would be discussing the matters pending between their respective countries. However, echoing rumors that have become stronger in the past year, a former witness at the Lockerbie trial, Ulrich Lumpert in Camp Zeist, Netherlands retracted the statement he made at the trial. Lumpert signed an affidavit stating he stole a prototype Mebo timer at the instigation of the Scottish Police.The timer was used by the prosecution to demonstrate its case at the trial for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103. Mr. Lumpert's statements match an earlier revelation in the British and Scottish media last May implying that a former Scottish police officer with the CIA planted the tiny fragment of circuit board crucial "in convicting a Libyan" for the bombing of the Pan Am 103. Libya never acknowledged responsibility in the matter and endured a decade long series of UN sanctions, which were removed when Qadhafi handed over two suspects to be tried. This would suggest Libya might claim to have been framed for the crash. (But it should be remembered that they were found guilty by a German court of bringing down a French airliner by a similar method - a bomb smuggled onboard - at about the same time, for which they paid compensation to the families, that the court awarded). 

Despite re-opening of the case in some circles, the evidence has been manipulated to such an extent by multiple parties that it will be very difficult to proceed with a formal re-investigation. Libya may not have an interest in pursuing the matter further, in order not to compromise the current relationship with the West but could theoretically be in a position to seek compensation from the West for the decade of sanctions. That would obviously sour relations and would have to give the appearance of a challenge, even involving a cut of the relations which it has worked so hard to restore in the past years. The re-examination of the Lockerbie case trial suggests that, quietly, the US and Libya may reach an alternative agreement over the Lockerbie obstacle to the visit of Condoleeza Rice, who may yet make it in October. 

Oil & Gas News
The National Oil Corporation (NOC) has announced that 35 are pre-qualified to bid in its first gas licensing round under the EPSA-4 contract model. The list includes Amerada Hess, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil as well as BP, BG Group, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, Eni, Gazprom and Lukoil. The sustained high prices for hydrocarbon resources have made it worthwhile to increase exploration and output. Libya intends to use the concessions in order to develop known fields that have yet to be developed. Shokri Ghanem, head of NOC, said he would expect the new fields to produce from four to five billion barrels of oil, which would indicate a potential value of some USD 300 billion should oil prices remain the current USD 75/barrel range. The high oil prices are also acting as an incentive for companies to put more efforts in drilling areas that may have been neglected before. Ghanem said the plan to develop untapped fields would offer two kinds of agreements for international companies: one allows the company to share the oil while another option would simply allow companies to collect a fee for the work.    

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