Tony Blair today revealed he repeatedly urged Colonel Gaddafi to flee Libya for a ‘safe place’ before he was killed – but denied he was trying to save his life. The former prime minister telephoned the dictator three times in 24 hours as his regime was on the verge of collapse in 2011, even though he had been out of power for four years.
Mr Blair, who left Downing Street and quit as an MP in 2007, said he was ‘acting as a concerned citizen’ and had asked David Cameron and Hillary Clinton for permission. A transcript of one call read to a committee of MPs today revealed he told Gaddafi: ‘If you have a safe place to go you should go there, because this will not end peacefully unless that happens. You have to leave the country’. But Mr Blair denied he was trying protect the despot from harm and said: ‘My concern was not for his safety. I was not trying to save Gaddafi’.
The ex-Labour leader was being questioned about his relationship with Gaddafi before he died in 2011 and their 2004 ‘deal in the desert’, when the dictator agreed to give up his chemical weapons. It also sealed millions in trade and oil deals between the two countries but Mr Blair denied it also paved the way for the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi and a promise not to pursue the killer of PC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984. He said: ‘I wasn’t trying to save Gaddafi – I was trying to say to him the violence has to stop and he had to leave the country’. He described the telephone conversations in 2011 urging him to agree to a peaceful transition of power. ‘They were all to the same effect,’ the former premier said. ‘This was all over the space of about 24 hours. ‘They were all basically saying there is going to be action unless you come up with an agreed process of change.’
Mr Blair said he had spoken to Mr Cameron and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informing them that he was going to reach out to Gaddafi as a private citizen. ‘They were completely non-committal obviously but listened to what I had to say,’ he added. ‘He (Mr Cameron) was perfectly content, without any commitment at all … for the conversation to happen.’ Mr Blair said he would not criticised Mr Cameron for taking action against Gaddafi. ‘I am not going to criticise the Prime Minister or (then French president) Nicolas Sarkozy or anyone else,’ he said. ‘I know how difficult these decisions are. ‘I am sure they did it for reasons that are perfectly well intentioned and in good faith.’ He suggested if he had still been in Downing Street he might have tried to use his relationship with Gaddafi to persuade him to go, but he could not know whether it would have worked.
Campaigners claim Tony Blair was given an easy ride by MPs who failed to ask if he helped hand men to Gaddafi for torture . Campaigners said today MPs let Tony Blair off the hook over Colonel Gaddafi and Libya. The former prime minister was not asked about two men kidnapped and sent for torture at the hands of the Gaddafi regime. Abdel Hakim Belhadj and his pregnant wife Fatima were handed over to the tyrant’s henchmen in the same month as the notorious ‘deal in the desert’ with the Libyan despot. Their lawyer said last night said she ‘hoped and expected’ Mr Blair would be quizzed on their cases – but he wasn’t. Cori Crider, their lawyer a director at international human rights NGO Reprieve said: “Today Mr Blair left many vital questions unanswered on his Libya record. Did his 2003-2004 discussions with Gaddafi include the rendition of Libyan dissidents like Abdulhakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi to the tyrant’s torture chambers – along with the al-Saadi children and Mr Belhadj’s pregnant wife? ‘The British government has never grappled with this most shameful element of Blair’s deal in the desert – it’s disappointing that we seem to be no closer to the truth today’.
Documents unearthed after the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime were used to claim Britain had handed over critics of the dictator. Then MI6 terror chief Sir Mark Allen wrote to his Libyan counterpart that delivering Mr Belhadj was ‘the least we could do for you’ in a letter discovered in the bombed-out ruins of Gaddafi’s spy headquarters during the 2011 Libyan uprising. The same year a second man, Sami al-Saadi, his wife and four young children were lured to Hong Kong, abducted by the CIA, and flown to Tripoli. A CIA fax found in the ruins of Libya’s infamous security chief, Musa Kusa, read: ‘We are … aware that your service had been cooperating with the British to effect (al Saadi’s) removal to Tripoli.’ Cori Crider said: ‘Abdul Hakim Belhadj and Sami al Saadi were opponents of a brutal dictator – as a result they were shipped off to his torture chambers, their wives and young children taken along for the ride. ‘All the while, the Blair government’s main concern was with getting ever-closer to Gaddafi, making shady back room deals wrapped up with embarrassing photo-ops.’
Both men faced lengthy spells in jail and torture before playing key roles in the overthrow of the regime. Mr Belhadj says British agents handed questions to his torturers to ask him while he was being mistreated. Mr al Saadi was beaten, given electric shocks and told he faced execution. He has secured a £2.2million payoff from the British government after suing over his case. Two days after the fax about him was sent Mr Blair arrived for the ‘Deal in the Desert’ which led to lucrative contracts being signed by BP. We live with ‘the pain’ of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – but we can’t opt out of the battle with terrorism, says Tony Blair . Mr Blair made the comments the night before he appeared before a committee of MPs ready to grill him about Britain’s role in the 2011 overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya.
Mr Blair’s government stands accused of complicity in torture and rendition for its role in the conflict in the North African nation. ‘I accept of course that the experience that we went through post-9/11, with Afghanistan and then Iraq, of course we live with the lessons of that and the pain of it,’ he said during an interview with CNN. ‘On the other hand, it’s important that we learned from that experience and don’t become incapacitated by it.’ He continued: ‘I feel a huge amount of challenge and pain about the situation that we’ve experienced since 9/11 – which is still the worst terrorist atrocity the world has seen. And came before any foreign intervention. ‘And, you know, when you’ve got Boko Haram in Nigeria and across parts of sub-Saharan Africa, you’ve got other groups, you’ve got al-Shabaab, you’ve got groups in central Asia, groups in the Far East. You know, at some point we’ve got to realise we didn’t cause this problem, we got caught up in it. ‘And we’re caught up in it now. And by the way, I’m not sure the world is safer in 2015 than it was in 2007 when we left. ‘But the central thing we have to understand is that there’s no way of us opting out of this battle. It is for us, fundamental to our security; we do have allies. ‘But it’s not just ISIS, by the way, that is the problem. We have to defeat this broader ideology as well. And really what I’ve been trying to say to people is that when you learn the experience – not just of Afghanistan and Iraq, but of Libya and Syria – certain lessons are very clear. ‘Intervention is tough; partial intervention is tough; non-intervention is tough, right? So the answer is it’s going to be a long, hard fight. ‘But you have to deal with the broader ideology that gives rise to this fanaticism, not just the fanaticism.’
The consequences of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the loss of lives, have caused strong reluctance to go to war in Syria and Iraq against ISIS in recent weeks.
Source: Dailymail news