Unless captured by the rebels and tried or even killed before the trial, among the handful of countries in which Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi could seek political asylum are two former Yugoslav republics, namely Croatia and Serbia – at least according to Libyan rebel representatives.
Over the weekend, Libyan National Transition Council (NTC) member Fatima Mahmoud said that Gaddafi could seek asylum in Chad, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Croatia or Serbia.
This suggestion by the Libyan rebels is rather uninformed. Firstly, all the countries of the former Yugoslavia have recognized the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Secondly, neither Gaddafi nor his associates could seek refuge in Serbia or Croatia as the process of granting them asylum would mean directly opposing both the US and the EU, which neither country is willing to do; neither could afford this politically or economically.
If is far more realistic for Gaddafi and his family to seek safe haven in Africa. Why, then, is the mainstream media so enthralled with the idea of Gaddafi seeking refuge in the Balkans? It makes for a good story for readers who do not require rationality and sobriety in analysis.
The idea is based on the fact that both Croatia and Serbia attempted to maintain good relations with Gaddafi at the beginning of the unrest, largely because of multimillion-dollar business deals. This was at a time when everyone with business interests in Libya was hedging their bets (particularly Italy). Since then, of course, most everyone is courting the rebels, as it becomes clearer that Gaddafi may soon be out of the picture.
There was also the pressure NATO applied to Serbia in early March to suspend military and economic cooperation with Libya.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Yugoslavia enjoyed very friendly relations with Libya, inking cooperation deals ranging from civil engineering to defense contracts. There is also the fact that Gaddafi’s second wife, Safija Farkas, is Bosnian Croat from the city of Mostar. (They met while Gaddafi was taking part in a military academy student exchange program in Mostar in the 1960s.)
In complete secrecy, Yugoslavian companies were hired to build the complex of underground bunkers where Gaddafi likely took shelter in the early stages of the uprising. It is believed that recently found secret underground network in Tripoli was build and equipped in the late 1980s by two Bosnian and Serbian companies.
Prior to the uprising, Serbia had hundreds of millions of euros worth military equipment orders from Gaddafi’s regime.
Earlier this year, Serbian companies concluded lucrative deals to build a military hospital in Libya, as well as to continue training Libyan air force pilots and to overhaul and maintain some 120 warplanes sold by the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s. Gaddafi’s regime was also a staunch supporter of Serbia in its fight against Kosovo’s recognition.
As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the exception of a couple of food and construction companies in Libya, Bosnian officials failed to establish notable political relations with Gaddafi, who had sided with Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.
Croatia, for its part, had nine companies in Libya when the conflict erupted.
Further fueling rebel theory was the news last week of the arrest of five Serbian citizens at the international airport in Tripoli, suspected of having served as Gaddafi’s mercenaries. The five claim to be construction workers for a Serbian-Libyan joint venture and had arrived in Libya only in mid-August.
Private mercenaries from Serbia is not a novel idea: Mercenaries from the former Yugoslavia have been present in almost all conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, noted for their fighting skills and thought to be expert assassins.
Also, Time magazine recently quoted a Croatian artillery specialist who left Gaddafi’s army in early August. The unnamed veteran of the wars of the former Yugoslavia told the magazine that he had been hired by the Gaddafi regime to help fight the rebels and, later, NATO.
Private mercenaries are tied to individual opportunism in this case, not state policy. And certainly, Serbia and Croatia are not interested in Gaddafi, only in Libya’s money, and that is now in the hands of the rebels and those who have been named the top five winners of the conflict: the US, Britain, France, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
by Anes Alic for ISA Intel. Copyright 2011, ISA Intel. All rights reserved