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  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 19,131     71
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Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Libya

Update No: 043 - (29/05/07)

Blood Money for the Aids Case
After seven years, the ordeal of five Bulgarian nurses (and one Palestinian medical doctor), who have been in a Libyan prison, accused of deliberately infecting 400 children with AIDS in a Benghazi hospital in 1999 could end soon. The European Union and the infected children's families are said to be close to reaching a deal that would eliminate the death penalty (which they have been handed last January) outright a punitive measure, giving room for the Libyan leader to grant a full pardon. It is unlikely, that Col. Qadhafi, however, will recognize, publicly, that the medics are innocent, as many medical experts and journals have indicated. As we have long maintained, the problem of obtaining release has been one of compensation. Any admission of responsibility for the negligence in the Libyan healthcare system would have exacerbated political problems in Benghazi. After seven years of reticence in the matter, simply giving up on the case, and any related gains, would also have sent an image of subservience to Western influence to some of the more revolutionary members of the Libyan system and indeed anti-western elements in the larger Arab world. Not surprisingly, then, the resolution to the AIDS case is now possible as the EU and Libya have reached an agreement, which is nothing short of the equivalent of blood money. The medics are awaiting a final verdict on their appeal against the death penalty. The hearing was expected at the beginning of May but has been delayed to a date yet to be determined - which some sources believe to be a sign that a solution is near. 

The conditions now exist that the Libyan Supreme Court, which must rule on the fate of the accused, will be able to consider that the 'diya' (blood money) has been paid. Libya has never disguised the fact that the right price would secure the release of the medics. Under the deal, the surviving infected children shall receive the best available medical care at international institutions for the entire duration of their lives, while their families shall also be financially compensated. The families had been demanding a compensation of EUR 10 million per child, but European officials working on the case (or 'deal') suggest the final amount could be significantly lower. The European Commission announced 120 Million Euro have been collected for the infected children to be deposited in a related 'international fund'. That was also confirmed by the European Commissioner of International affairs and Austrian Minister of foreign affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The international fund was created on the initiative of the EU and USA. In December Qadhafi complained that the fund was empty, accusing the organizers of lying. However, Geoffrey Van Orden- the European Parliament's rapporteur for Bulgaria stated that the money for the international fund would only be released after Libya releases the nurses and the Palestinian Doctor.

The Qadhafi Foundation, headed by Saif ul-Islam al-Qadhafi (son of the leader) has been closely involved in negotiations to resolve the issue. While the Foundation was very likely involved in stalling harsher solutions from the Libyan side - as Saif acknowledged that the Libyan healthcare sector needs an overhaul in private interviews outside Libya - it is sending signals that the financial compensation shall have to be matched by a commitment by the EU to take care of the surviving children in its own facilities. Indeed, the EU has already started to treat some of the children in its medical facilities. Nevertheless, there is another hurdle for the medics, who face a separate and grotesque trial on charges of having defamed three police officers, accusing (falsely according to the prosecution) them of torture. The implication of this being that the nurses freely admitted to the mass murder of the children in their care by deliberately injecting them with AIDS, as distinct from the accounts they actually gave of how they were tortured until they signed confessions.

The medics face up to six years in prison for telling about that, and inevitably the opportunistic plaintiffs demand more millions in compensation for their 'distress' at being accused of torture. This additional trial all but ensures that a pardon from the Libyan leader will be needed to finally secure the medics' release. The defamation case is not bound by social customs of diya, and the Libyan leader would find it easier to grant a pardon in such a case. Another optimistic sign is that Libya has recently asked for France's assistance in closing the 'Bulgarian Nurses Affair'. France's new president Nicolas Sarkozy, had indicated his concern over the Bulgarian nurses trial during the elections campaign, describing it as 'outrageous'. He cited the case in his first official speech as France's president, saying that France had a duty to support the five Bulgarian nurses facing a death penalty trial in Libya. The French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche reported that Libyan officials spoke to French officials close to Sarkozy, to discuss the Bulgarian nurses' trial.

New Risk of Islamist Violence 
The Maghreb countries, while rich in natural resources and tourism potential, also continue to endure obstacles to economic development and poverty, exacerbated by the limited employment opportunities for the growing number of young people reaching employment age. The recent series of attacks in Morocco and Algeria, where a French oil company worker was also killed, by apparent salafist groups has raised security concerns in the region. Libya, which has endured relatively lower islamist activity than its neighbours, is not immune to the social ills that affect t the region as a whole. It has been able to overcome some of the consequences of neglect through the distributive largesse afforded by the oil wealth and low population. However, in May, Algerian security forces arrested three Libyan Islamic militants, said to be intentioned on joining the alleged North African branch of 'al-Qaeda' North African wing. Local sources said that the three militants were heading to strongholds of the Algeria-based al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb. The Libyan militants, aged between 22 and 25, had been "recruited in Libya by extremist networks with international ramifications" said sources. 

The group 'al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, also known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or GSPC, was the same that claimed responsibility for triple suicide bombings that killed 33 people in Algiers on April 11. It appears that the group is recruiting members throughout the region to prepare them for various Attacks. The arrest of three Libyans suggests that Libya is also an intended target. This could raise security concerns for the many foreign oil companies in Libya; such installations are prime target areas in view of their international visibility. The GSPC murdered the French oil company worker in Algeria, claiming that France had been stealing Algeria's oil wealth. While Algeria has witnessed considerably more violence than its neighbours implying that the GSPC is not necessarily connected to organizations that have conducted similarly timed bombings last April in Morocco, their activity is a sign that even Libya faces growing vulnerability to islamist violence. Indeed, in May, the world was briefly stunned by headlines suggesting that the Libyan leader was in a coma. A Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, quoted an unnamed European source as saying that Qadhafi had suffered a brain clot on Sunday and was taken to hospital. The leader disproved the news, appearing on television in apparent good health, and claiming that the rumours were spread by "the Arabs and their masters." Oddly, the ill health rumours (which if true would have caused a real crisis in Libya given the absence of any formal method for political succession) were spread as if to coincide with the first anniversary of Washington's announcement that it would remove Libya from the list of terrorism sponsoring states. While there is no evidence to suggest the move was an attempt to fuel trouble, it is an incident which suggests growing internal and external pressure on the Libyan leadership, which struggles to balance the appearance of defying the West, while maintaining respectability to attract foreign investment in oil exploration and refining, as well as other business areas. The incident gives a sense that we can expect similar surprises in the next few months. 

Oil News
Norwegian oil company Statoil is preparing to shoot seismic. During the year, around 2,000 kilometres of 2D seismic will be gathered from the Kufra license in the south-east of the country. This is the first time Statoil is shooting seismic in the country. 

Statoil won two land-based licenses to operate in an attractive oil producing region of Libya in the autumn of 2005. Statoil is to work with British Gas in Kufra 171 with a 50% share each. The companies have committed themselves to gathering the 2,000 kilometres of 2D seismic and to drilling two exploration wells in the license. During the second half of 2008, Statoil will drill the first exploration wells in Libya. Statoil started Libyan operations in 2005.


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