Libya tourism prospects rise after Blair visit   

Signs are emerging that Libya is on the way to rehabilitation in the travel and tourist industry, following the visit to Tripoli by British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. His meeting with the Libyan leader, Colonel Ghadafi, is being followed up with a trade mission next month, led by a Foreign Office Minister and including leading construction companies with interests in airports, roads and rail infrastructure.

The British Consultants and Construction Bureau said the team was looking to strike partnership deals with Libya’s nationalised industries. Chief Executive, Colin Adams, said they would be advising on building and engineering work needed on ports and harbours, airports and roads.

Britain’s BAE Systems said it was in talks with Libyan officials on a range of aviation projects, including civil aircraft sales, airport infrastructure, air traffic management and safety issues. BAE owns a 20 percent share in Airbus Industry, the world’s largest commercial aircraft maker.

The UK Trade Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, said in an interview on British television that trade, including tourism, could underpin co-operation against terrorism. “We know from our own history in Europe that countries that trade together don’t generally fight against each other.” Referring to the forthcoming minister’s trade visit she added, “He’ll be taking some businessmen with him and there are all kinds of opportunities for trade between Libya and Britain – not least in areas like health and education and tourism.”

British Airways has announced that it’s increasing the number of flights from the UK to Tripoli to six per week, to meet demand for travel to Libya. BA said most were businessmen in the oil industry but the continuing rehabilitation of Libya would boost its appeal to tourists.

A British tour company has begun offering luxury cruises that include a stop in the port of Tripoli. Mediterranean Shipping Cruises has put Tripoli on its programme for an 11-day cruise in October. MSC director, Peter Pate said, “Libya is a unique place because it has been closed off for so many years.”

The World Chess Federation has announced that the World Championship is to be held in the Libyan capital from June 18 to July 13. The Federation says on its web site that Colonel Ghadafi had donated a prize fund as well as offering to host the event.

A government delegation from Libya is in London to meet officials of the Football Association, soccer’s governing body. The delegation is aiming to promote their bid for the 2010 World Cup and talk to stadium contractors. “They are on a trade visit but they have asked if they can come and speak to us about their 2010 bid and we are happy to oblige,” said FA spokesman Adrian Bevington.

William Burns, US Assistant Secretary of State, has had a meeting with Colonel Ghadafi in Tripoli, about restoring diplomatic and trade links between Libya and the United States. The White House lifted a travel ban on Libya last month, following Ghadafi’s declaration that Libya would give up its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. Mr Burns is most senior US official to visit Libya and handed over a letter from President Bush on ways to improves international relations.

Colonel Ghadafi’s son, Saif al-Islam al-Ghadafi, has appealed to Arab governments to support moves to promote democracy in the Middle East. “Instead of shouting and criticising the American initiative, you have to bring democracy to your countries, and then there will be no need to fear America or your people.  Arabs should either change or change will be imposed on them from outside” he is reported to have said.

By David Browne
eTN London

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