Magazine article Newsweek

Libya: The Strongman Is Still Making Trouble

Magazine article Newsweek

Libya: The Strongman Is Still Making Trouble

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Isikoff

President George W. Bush counts Libya's decision to give up its nuclear-weapons program--a move that helped thaw relations with the longtime pariah regime of Col. Muammar Kaddafi--as one of his foreign-policy successes. To reward the Libyan strongman, Bush last month lifted most U.S. sanctions against Libya, prompting a rush of U.S. energy executives to Tripoli in search of drilling-rights concessions and other deals. (Among the beneficiaries: Halliburton, whose chief financial officer recently told investors that the Libyan market presented "a great opportunity for us.") Another sign of the thaw: the Libyans have just hired their own D.C. lobbyist, signing a $1.4 million contract with Randa Fahmy Hudome, until last year a top Bush-administration energy official.

But U.S. counterterrorism officials are deeply uneasy. Libya is still on the State Department list of state "sponsors" of terrorism, and sources tell NEWSWEEK the country is likely to remain there for some time. One reason: mounting evidence that, even while they were bargaining with the United States over the nuclear issue, Kaddafi and his top aides were financing a bizarre plot to assassinate Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah by attacking his motorcade with grenade launchers. When reports of the alleged plot surfaced last spring, U.S. intel officials downplayed it. But corroboration--including a documented trail of Libyan payments to the alleged plotters--forced the CIA to change its assessment. …

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