A former senior British diplomat Monday said political reform in Libya was “long overdue”.
Ex-Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown, who was previously deputy secretary general of the United Nations, said: “I wish this had happened years ago.”
Lord Malloch-Brown, who served in the Foreign Office under Gordon Brown for two years, said in an interview here he was surprised repression and inequality under Colonel Gaddafi’s 41-year rule had not sparked a popular uprising earlier.
But he added: “The resistance of Gaddafi – the terror state and security state he has established – explains why not.”
“To be an opponent of his has been an almost suicide sentence to put on oneself, so he has survived through terror and suppression of his citizens.”
Lord Malloch-Brown said it was important the West re-engaged with the Libyan regime, a move boosted by then prime minister Tony Blair’s visit to the country in 2004.
“It was a dilemma not just for Britain but for the West,” Lord Malloch-Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“A Gaddafi who was isolated remained a global contributor to terrorism, responsible for producing explosives for IRA acts of terrorism at one point.”
“He was turning his state into a financier and supporter of international terrorist activities. The diplomatic objective of getting him into the embrace and responsibilities of more normal interstate behaviour was a good one.”
“Whether or not subsequently that tail was wagged by business interest which pushed for concessions – that’s a more moot and debatable point.”
Lord Malloch-Brown said the uprising was predictable, adding: “The West has been caught flat-footed by what’s happened in the region.”
“People got so used to this repression that, when finally it’s challenged so successfully, our diplomats are surprised.”
Libyan British Business Council chairman Lord Trefgarne denied that commercial interests with the UK were “a reward for good behaviour”.
He said: “It is not the case that trading with Britain is a reward for good behaviour for countries we do business with.”
“We are a great trading nation, we trade with a great many nations around the world, many of whom we have sharp disagreements (with).”
Lord Trefgarne pointed out that bringing Gaddafi back into the international fold led to Libya surrendering its weapons of mass destruction. And he said Britain’s “very strict licensing regime” over arms exports was “rigorously applied” to Libya, adding: “Very little of that nature, as far as I know, has been exported to them.”