British Firms Urged to ‘Pack Suitcases’ in Rush for Libya

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New defence secretary says companies should be ready to cash in on reconstruction contracts in newly liberated Libya

By Jo Adetunji

The starting pistol for British firms to pursue contracts in Libya has been fired by the new defence secretary, Philip Hammond, who urged companies to “pack their suitcases” and head there to secure reconstruction contracts.

As Nato announced that it plans to wind up operations in Libya, Hammond said that great care had been taken during the campaign to avoid destroying critical infrastructure.

“Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya,” he told the BBC in an interview.

“I would expect British companies, even British sales directors, [to be] packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can,” said Hammond, who replaced Liam Fox as defence secretary a week ago.

He added that after a “hugely successful” British mission in Libya, Britain now needed “to support the Libyans to turn the liberation of their country into a successful stabilisation so that Libya can be a beacon of prosperity and democracy in north Africa going forward.”

The National Transitional Council has already said that it intends to reward countries who showed support for its fight against the Gaddafi regime, with Britain and France likely to lead the way.

The success of British contractors in the country – which could see billions of pounds spent on reconstruction over the next decade – will be seen as a huge victory for prime minister David Cameron, who visited Tripoli and NTC members last month, along with Nicolas Sarkozy.

British gains in Libya include business and reconstruction contracts, as well as oil. As Libya’s £100bn in frozen assets around the world are released, it is a sizeable pot.

Lord Green, a trade minister, has already met with British firms to discuss potential opportunities in Libya, and oil company BP is believed to have already held talks with the NTC.

In a press conference in September, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim Libyan prime minister, praised the “brave positions” of Cameron and Sarkozy. “They showed us political, economic and military support, which helped the rebels establish a state, and we thank France and the UK for that,” he said.

But while Guma al-Gamaty, the NTC’s UK representative, has said Libya would honour contracts signed under the Gaddafi regime, he has also indicated that British companies might not get “easy business” from Libya.

“There will be huge changes in everything – in the oil and gas sectors, in education, and with the creation of new industrial sectors,” he said. “But it’s not a guaranteed market. Contracts will be awarded not on the basis of political favouritism, but on merit, quality and competitiveness.”

France has already begun its own campaign to secure business in the country. French foreign minister Alain Juppé has said it was only “fair and logical” for its companies to benefit.

Daniel Kawczynski, a Conservative backbencher and chair of the cross-party parliamentary group on Libya, said Britain should come first when it comes to awarding contracts, which would also pay back some of the cost of some £300m spent on military action.

“The question that remains is, who should ultimately bear this cost?” he said. “Should the burden fall on those who could be counted on? Or should, in time, Libya repay those who fought with her, and for her?”

He added: “In these difficult economic times, it should not be too much to ask a country with Libya’s wealth and resources to pay their share of the gold.”

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Obama Warns Gaddafi of “No Let Up”

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Matt Falloon and Joseph Logan

LONDON/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama warned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Wednesday there would be ‘no let up’ in pressure on him to go, following a second successive night of heavy NATO bombing in Tripoli.

Six loud explosions rocked Tripoli late on Tuesday within 10 minutes, following powerful strikes 24 hours earlier, including one on Gaddafi’s compound that Libyan officials said killed 19 people.

Obama told a London news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron he could not predict when Gaddafi, who is fighting a three-month-old insurgency, might be forced to go.

“I absolutely agree that given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks that Gaddafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a let-up in the pressure that we are applying.”

“We have built enough momentum that as long as we sustain the course that we are on that he is ultimately going to step down,” he said. “Ultimately this is going to be a slow, steady process in which we are able to wear down the regime.”

Fighting between Gaddafi’s forces and rebels has reached a stalemate, despite two months of NATO aerial support under a U.N. mandate intended to protect civilians. Gaddafi denies his troops target civilians and says rebels are criminals, religious extremists and members of al Qaeda.

Strikes drove back Gaddafi forces shortly after he pledged “no pity, no mercy” to rebels in their stronghold of Benghazi. Rebels have since proved unable to achieve any breakthrough against better-trained and equipped government troops.

Cameron echoed Obama’s calls for the departure of Gaddafi, who denies targeting civilians and portrays the disparate rebel groups as religious extremists, mercenaries and criminals serving Western schemes to seize Libya’s oil.

“I believe we should be turning up that pressure and on Britain’s part we will be looking at all the options of turning up that pressure,” he said.

Such pressure will not include NATO troops, Obama said.

“We cannot put boots in the ground in Libya,” he said. “There are going to be some inherent limitations to our air strikes in Libya.”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Tuesday the NATO bombing should achieve its objectives within months.

France said this week it would deploy attack helicopters to ensure more precise attacks against Gaddafi forces embedded among the civilian population of Libyan cities. Britain said on Tuesday it was considering doing the same.

Heavy Bombing in Libya

In the second day of heavy NATO bombing of Tripoli, the alliance hit a vehicle storage bunker, a missile storage and maintenance site and a command- and-control site on the outskirts of Tripoli, a NATO official said. Government targets around the Western rebel outpost of Misrata had also been hit.

Libyan news agency Jana says NATO hit a telecommunications station in Zlitan overnight, causing “material and human casualties losses” west of Misrata.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed fears that Western states were being drawn into an Iraq-style conflict.

“It’s very different from Iraq because of course in the case of Iraq there were very large numbers of ground forces deployed from Western nations,” Hague told BBC Radio.

Diplomatic activity is intensifying. G8 world powers will discuss ways to break the impasse this week, with some expecting Russia to propose a mediation plan to the meeting.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced he would visit Tripoli next week for talks with Gaddafi in his capacity as a member of the African Union high-level panel for the resolution of the conflict in Libya.

Zuma headed an African Union mission to Tripoli in April but the bid to halt the civil war collapsed within hours. The AU does not have a good track record in brokering peace deals, having failed recently to end conflicts or disputes in Somalia, Madagascar and Ivory Coast.

Unlike France, Italy and Qatar, the United States has not established formal diplomatic ties with the rebels. Jordan said on Tuesday it recognized the rebel council as a legitimate representative of Libya’s people and planned to open an office in Benghazi.

The United States bolstered the credentials of the Benghazi-based rebel National Transitional Council as a potential government-in-waiting on Tuesday when a U.S. envoy invited it to set up a representative office in Washington.

(Reporting by Joseph Logan in Tripoli, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Mohammed Abbas in Misrata, Sherine El Madany in Benghazi, Nick Vinocur in Paris; writing by Ralph Boulton; editing by Alison Williams)

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