Douglas Alexander refuses to call for Gadaffi to go as hundreds massacred in Libya


Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has refused to back calls for Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi to go, despite growing reports of state violence that has left hundreds dead in the North African country.

Speaking on Good Morning Scotland the Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South was commenting on the uprising currently taking place in Libya when he was repeatedly asked if he would like to see the Libyan dictator stand down.  Mr Alexander refused to answer.

Pressure has intensified on the Libyan dictator’s regime following a series of demonstrations and civil unrest in various parts of the country.  The unrest has even reached the Libyan capital Tripoli where protesters took control of the state broadcaster and burned government buildings.

The unrest began in Libya’s second city Benghazi, the eastern region known to be more hostile to the Gadaffi regime than other areas.  However it quickly spread and led to the son of the Libyan dictator appearing on national news warning of civil war and vowing that the regime would fight to “the last bullet”.

Protestors remained defiant amidst the chaos and carnage with some reports suggesting that elements of the military may be siding with civilians.  “Gaddafi is losing control of the military – he can no longer trust them,” claimed a pro-democracy campaigner in Tripoli.  “It is the end game for Gaddafi and he is reacting with death and destruction.”

The whereabouts of Gadaffi himself remains a mystery.  Some reports have suggested he may have fled to Venezuela whilst others say he has left for his home town of Sebha in the Sahara, his tribal power base.  The dictator appeared briefly on Libyan TV last night where he described foreign TV broadcasters as “dogs”.

There has been criticism from the USA of the UK government’s dealings with the Libyans and claims that London had become too friendly with the dictator whose regime was sold arms by British companies.  There have been reports of heavy artillery being used against protestors.  Export arms licences were eventually revoked by the UK government on Friday.

Successive UK governments have been accused of helping the oppressive regime remain in power by becoming too close to Gadaffi.  Last summer UK Government ministers were having a cosy meeting with the senior Libyan politician Abdel-Fatah Yunis al-Obeidi, Gaddafi’s secretary general for public security.

In his visit to the UK Mr Obeidi went to the Farnborough air show, met the Scotland Yard counter-terrorism command and Gerald Howarth, the minister for international security strategy.  The senior Libyan also held talks in the Lords and met with Prince Andrew, who promotes British business in Libya.

Relations with Libya were cultivated by former Labour leader Tony Blair who negotiated the secret desert deal with Colonel Gadaffi in 2007.  The secret meeting saw the then UK Prime Minister strike a deal that led to contracts being signed with oil giant BP and included a Prisoner Transfer Agreement that would have allowed the man known as the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, to return to Libya.

The clandestine agreement was met with fury by the fledgling SNP government who found out about the deal after they took office in 2007 following their historic election win.  First Minister Alex Salmond convened an emergency meeting of the Scottish parliament where the secret deal was formally condemned.  The SNP demanded that Megrahi’s name be removed from any PTA deal, however that request was subsequently ignored by Gordon Brown’s Labour government.

Weeks ago Scottish Labour were left exposed after it emerged that the former UK Labour government had done “all it could” to facilitate the return of Megrahi to Libya.  Secret documents released by the current UK government revealed that Labour’s then Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy knew about the help being offered to the Libyans by Labour ministers and Whitehall, and that London was keen on negotiating with the Libyans on matters relating to energy and immigration.

This latest Middle East uprising follows similar events in Tunisia and Egypt.  Tahrir Square in Egypt’s capital Cairo was the epicentre of the revolution that eventually led to the removal of Mubarak from power in Egypt.

The events unfolding in Libya may prove uncomfortable for both the Labour party and the Conservatives, for whom Gadaffi was central in nurturing improved relations between London and Tripoli.