Monday, September 28, 2009

 

ALI BABA AND THE MAYOR OF ST.JOHN'S

The Mayor of Newfoundland's capital, Denis O'Keefe, was right last week to infer that there was more than re-fueling a jet plane behind the planned visit of Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadahafi to St. John's.

In fact, O'Keefe's curiosity (among other things) probably played a role behind Gadahafi's "no show" on "The Rock". The since cancelled visit virtually took on a life of its own in the latter part of last week. The Mayor, among a growing list of commentators, speculated on Saturday he didn't believe it was just a re-fueling layover, or that Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, was only going to scold Colonel Gadahafi over the release of the Pan Am flight 103 bomber from a Scottish jail.

Rather, the facts were reversed. To digress; there is a TV Commercial airing currently for the "Play Station" video game console. It suggests you can't believe everything you read on the Internet..."that's how World War I started." I'd put a bet on the following story:

Airplanes are able to cross the Atlantic with ease, thus going to the difficulty of an overnight stop without an ulterior motive seemed odd to most observers. There is a growing body of circumstantial evidence that Gadahafi's last minute choice of Newfoundland was anything but, and may have been scoped-out with Canadian Foreign Affairs and all the way up to the Prime Minister's inner sanctum quite some time before the dictator ever left Tripoli for his speech at the United Nations in New York.

Four things changed in the intervening period, eventually forcing the reversal of plans for today's overnight stop in St. John's. - 1) The world's outrage over the hero's welcome Libya gave to the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. 2) The tenure of Gadhafi's disjointed, rambling 90 harangue of the United Nations in New York last Wednesday. 3) His cozying-up to Hugo Chavez the revolutionary leader in Venezuela this past weekend. And, as I alluded earlier 4) The buzz, curiosity, and skepticism in Canada over the motive for the St. John's visit.

With the ever hanging, ever growing threat of a Federal Election in Canada at any moment; the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Harper concluded it couldn't be placed in a position of international embarrassment if the real motive about the visit was exposed...or even speculated about as so many had been doing, including the high profile Mayor of St. John's, Dennis O'Keefe. So the planned stop-over was abandoned.

In 2003, Moammar Gadhafi, the Bedoin self-described "King of Kings in Africa", announced he would drop his support of international terrorism and dismantle his country's programs to build chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. In return, western powers, including the United-States, almost immediately eased or altogether abandoned international sanctions against Libya. Though George Bush wasn't about to drop in on Gadhafi nor invite him over for tea in Washington. Among the first Western Leaders to visit with the reformed dictator in Tripoli in 2005 was then Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Martin's visit established valuable capital for our Foreign Service with Libya and earned us Gadhafi's gratitude.

There is anecdotal evidence to speculate last winter, desperate for a break over the capture and taking hostage of Diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in neighbouring Niger; Canada went knocking on the door of the "King of Kings in Africa" for assistance. Bob Fowler, who was in Niger for the United-Nations, has hinted recently that people with knowledge of his mission were behind the kidnappings on December 14, 2008. For sure the United Nations, and its Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, were powerless to deal with the circumstances. The Canadian Government quickly took over from the U.N. in the search for, and eventual release of Fowler and Guay on April 21, 2009. Canada's pay-off from the United Nations Secretary-General will come when our delegation is elected to the 15 member Security-Council this coming winter...I digress.

Now you get the drift of the St. John's visit: Moammar Gadhafi's overnight stop-over on Canadian soil, and private visit with Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, was to accept (to the extent that if could be diplomatically) an expression of official gratitude from Canada for his role in working on the release of Fowler and Guay. Circumstances over the last several days changed the agenda.

Lastly, McLeans.ca, the news magazine's website, has reported that although hotel rooms and other bookings for Colonel Gadhafi's delegation and retinue of body guards in St. John's have been cancelled..."the accommodations were still paid for." I would be surprised if the payments came from the Government of Libya.

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