Norway backs Libya amidst scolding

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The Norwegian government, led by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, has officially recognized the new National Transition Council (NTC) in Libya as the country’s legitimate governing authority and a Libyan adviser said Norwegian companies could keep operating, but only after criticizing them as “useful idiots” for the country’s missing dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg with one of the jets used to bomb Libya last spring. Stoltenberg's government supports the new transitional authority emerging in Libya. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the Norwegian government recognizes the NTC and will support it. Norway already has contributed to the Libyan opposition’s cause by supporting the UN Security Council’s historic resolution to prevent Gadhafi from attacking his own people, and participating in the NATO-led bombing of Gadhafi’s military installations.

“Colonel Gadhafi and his regime now control small pockets of Libyan territory and it is only logical that we draw necessary conclusions from this,” Støre said in a prepared statement. He added that “as soon as the situation in Libya allows, it is important to establish a broad-based government that has the widest possible popular support and that can govern the country during an interim period.”

Enriched Gadhafi
While Støre urged the Libyans to “look ahead,” Professor Mansour El-Kikhia, an adviser to the new Libyan authorities, suggested Norwegian companies and state officials should look back at how they have operated in Libya, and probably helped enrich Gadhafi at the expense of the Libyan people.

El-Kikhia will lead the hunt for the fortune that Gadhafi is believed to have stashed away. He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that Norwegian companies including Saga Petroleum, Norsk Hydro, Statoil and Yara have been “useful idiots” for the Gadhafi regime, along with other international firms that dealt with the regime to obtain access to Libyan resources.

El-Kikhia has lived in exile in the US for more than 30 years and is a professor in Texas. He traveled home to Benghazi last week and now will try to help the country recover the wealth that he believes Gadhafi’s family has hidden overseas. While some assets have been identified and frozen in Austria, Switzerland and the UK, he thinks around NOK 60 billion remains stashed away.

Norwegian companies dealt with controversial LIA
Foreign companies doing business in Libya, including, for example, Yara, worked with the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), which allegedly was controlled by Gadhafi’s family. El-Kikhia faces a huge job tracing investments made by LIA, one of which may be a diamond mine further south in Africa.

He said, though, that he doesn’t blame the Norwegian and other foreign companies as much as he blames the Libyans who worked for Gadhafi. Neither officials at Yara nor Norway’s business and trade ministry would comment on El-Kikhia’s claims. Last March he also scolded foreign aid minister Erik Solheim, who had said that Norwegian investment led to economic growth in Libya. El-Kikhia believes it’s only Gadhafi and the companies themselves that have profited on Saga’s, Hydro’s, Statoil’s and Yara’s investments.

“But no company will be thrown out,” he told DN. “The contracts they have entered into will be followed.” Conditions will change, though, “and they’ll have to show that they can do the job.”

A Yara spokesman told DN earlier this week that Yara officials don’t know who now controls the area where its Lifeco fertilizer plant is located in the city of Brega. Yara owns 50 percent of the plant, with LIA holding 25 percent and the Libyan National Oil Co (NOC) the remaining 25 percent, but Yara no longer knows who’s in control of LIA and NOC. Yara is also under investigation on suspicion of bribery in connection with the establishment of Lifeco in 2008.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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