Tuesday, September 27, 2005

green book roundtable in tripoli

In September 2003, UN sanctions on Libya were lifted following Libya’s agreement to pay $2.7 billion to the families of victims of the Lockerbie Pan Am bombing and to accept responsibility for the explosion. Three months later, Libya took the dramatic step of revealing and abandoning its programmes for weapons of mass destruction. These developments ushered in a phase during which Libya has fostered links not only with governments but also with non-governmental organisations.

As part of this process, the Jamahariya Thought Academy in Tripoli last week held a three-day roundtable on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s “Green Book”. The 13 invited delegates, of whom I was one, came from the USA, Britain, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey.

The invitees were mainly activists in the peace and democracy fields, largely from academic backgrounds. The inclusion of five delegates from America was a sign of the way in which Libya has opened up since the US lifted its travel ban and economic sanctions in 2004.

The “Green Book” with its “Third Universal Theory” was controversial when it was first published some 30 years ago. Is it really of relevance today? In the discussions of the papers by Libyan academics on the main themes of “The Green Book”, and of the “Great Green Charter on Human Rights”, it was clear that the delegates found the ideas presented to be of interest in considering the problems facing the world today, although some had reservations on certain points.

The sessions were chaired by Dr Rajab Boudabbous, the General Director of the Jamahariya Thought Academy. The speakers included three Libyan women professors, among them Dr Salma Abdaljbar who spoke on religion and politics.

On the morning of the third day, the delegates were suddenly informed that the Libyan Leader wished to meet them, and were driven to his high-security compound. Gaddafi is well known for his frequent sartorial image changes. Rather than being in Bedouin costume on this occasion, he wore a dazzling white suit and bright green shirt. After engaging in discussions with the delegates and answering their questions, he signed copies of “The Green Book”.

He also talked about his “White Book” on his proposed solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict in which “Isratine” (a hybrid name derived from Israel and Palestine) would be a state where Jews and Palestinians would live in peace.

Some of the US delegates had first been to Libya in July 2004 on the first non-governmental delegation of Americans to officially visit the country after the US lifted its travel embargo. They included Dr Glen T Martin, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Radford University, Virginia.

Dr Martin is the secretary general and treasurer of the executive cabinet of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). The 9th session of the Provisional World Parliament will be held in Libya from 25 to 27 February.

The roundtable was the second event of its kind, coming after a roundtable for Russian delegates. The next roundtable will be for Chinese invitees, and roundtables in other languages including French and Spanish are planned.

Susannah Tarbush
Saudi Gazette September 27 2005

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