25 March 2004
On 25 March 2004, Tony Blair embraced Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi in a Bedouin tent outside Tripoli, and declared he was hopeful for a ‘new relationship’ between Britain and Libya. The Prime Minister was exuberant over Gaddafi’s promise to privatise Libyan state assets. Even before they had finished their negotiations, it was announced that Anglo-Dutch Shell had been awarded a deal worth £550 million in off shore gas exploration rights. Blair’s single minded focus had been on creating opportunities for vulture-like transnational corporations. He appeared indifferent to demands for justice for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing or with Gaddafi’s appalling human rights record.
The New York Times noted the verdict of the oil analysts that ‘Shell’s deal (with Libya) was likely to increase pressure on the Bush administration by American oil companies, including Occidental Petroleum and Exxon Mobil, to lift sanctions that continue to bar American companies from investing in Libya and a comment by analyst Bruce Evers of Investec Banking in London that “clearly this is the best bit of good news that Shell has had this year… It is not every day that an OPEC member comes out and says ‘come on down.’” During the next seven years, prior to the 2011 uprising, hundreds of British companies took advantage of the relaxation of restrictions on doing business with the Libyan regime and Britain became increasingly dependent on the dictator’s good will; so much so that in 2008 Prime Minister Gordon Brown rejected demands for compensation from victims of an IRA terror bombing in 1996 which had used Libyan sourced Semtex.
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