Fri, Apr 01, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Uganda says it would welcome exiled Qaddafi to stay

AP, NAIROBI

The list of countries where Muammar Qaddafi might spend a comfortable life in exile is a lot shorter now than it would have been in years past because of global monetary sanctions and a possible trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Uganda’s deposed dictator, Idi Amin, found refuge first in Libya and eventually in Saudi Arabia in 1980, living in his own villa with female companionship, food and drink.

That kind of good life may not be likely for Qaddafi.

In a twist of fate, Uganda said on Wednesday it would accept Libya’s leader, the first country to publicly volunteer to give him a home.

Of course, Qaddafi may never leave Libya unless overbearing military power forces him to, although world leaders are hoping the strongman will go, and there are indications that his aides are seeking an exit for a man who has held power for more than 40 years.

The Ugandan president’s spokesman justified the offer of refuge, saying that Ugandans were given asylum in neighboring countries during the rule of Amin, who killed tens of thousands of his countrymen in the 1970s.

“So we have soft spots for asylum seekers. Qaddafi would be allowed to live here if he chooses to do so,” spokesman Tamale Mirundi said.

Other countries on a list of -potential landing points are the African nations of Chad, Mali, Niger, Eritrea and Sudan, although the first three are members of the ICC and would, in theory, be obliged to arrest Qaddafi if he is charged.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has a long friendship with Qaddafi and has called for mediation in the conflict, said on Wednesday that he has spoken with Qaddafi recently and that the Libyan leader has no plans to seek refuge in another country.

“He has said on different occasions that he isn’t going to leave Libya,” Chavez said at a news conference in Uruguay, where he was asked whether Venezuela would welcome Qaddafi as an exile. “I think Qaddafi is doing what he has to do, no? Resisting against an imperial attack.”

Besides Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua have been openly supportive of Qaddafi, said Mark Palmer, a former US ambassador and an expert on dictators. Because the Libyan leader has a large ego, he is more likely to accept going to one of those countries than a smaller African nation like Eritrea.

Saudi Arabia is an outside possibility, as is Belarus, which is led by Europe’s last dictator and was accused of sending weapons to Qaddafi until an international arms embargo took effect.

Some experts cast doubt on whether Qaddafi would ever leave Libya.

“I don’t think Qaddafi’s going to go anywhere,” said Adam Habib, a political scientist at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. “I think he’s happy to die there.”

Italy has been pushing for the African Union to come up with a possible place for exile, but Brahan Khellaf — the special assistant to African Union commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra — said on Wednesday that the topic of Qaddafi’s exile has not been discussed “at all.”

Palmer, like many analysts, said he doesn’t believe Qaddafi will leave Libya voluntarily and instead must face heavy military pressure and be given a guarantee he won’t end up before the ICC, which opened in 2002.

“He obviously believes he is Libya, and his family is deeply entrenched in the power structure and the wealth of the country. So I’m sure his family is also saying ‘Don’t go, don’t go,’” Palmer said.

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