By George Grant
Tripoli, 29 May:
Libya is planning to send another delegation to Mauritania, to be led by Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa . . .[restrict]Abushagur.
According to the government’s foreign affairs spokesman, Saad Elshlmani, the delegation will depart as soon as agreement has been reached between the two countries on an appropriate date and agenda.
Libya is looking to develop closer cooperation with Mauritania on a number of fronts, in particular trade and investment. Crucially, however, Libya is also hoping to secure agreement from the government in Nouakchott to hand over Abdullah Al-Senussi for trial.
Following Al-Senussi’s arrest in Mauritania in March, Abushagur immediately travelled to the country to negotiate the transfer of Qaddafi’s former spy chief to Libya. At the time, Abushagur said he had been given a “positive” response to Libya’s extradition request by Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz, and spoke of his “courageous position” on the issue.
Two months later, however, there is still no sign that the Mauritanians are ready to hand Al-Senussi over to Tripoli, although the Libyan government insists that negotiations are ongoing.
There has been speculation that Mauritania is concerned about potential criticism from the international community if Al-Senussi is handed over to Libya and subsequently mistreated, or not afforded a fair trial. It is privately believed that the Mauritanian government is using Al-Senussi as a bargaining chip to increase their leverage on other issues.
It is also the case that Al-Senussi is wanted in a number of other jurisdictions besides Libya for trial, including the United Kingdom, France, and the International Criminal Court.
When asked by the Libya Herald if discussing Al-Senussi was in fact the primary purpose of the anticipated visit, Elshlmani said not. “We want to discuss many issues with the Mauritanians”, he said, “in particular with regards to trade and investment. I believe that better relations need to come first; then we will be in a position to discuss Al-Senussi.”
This appears at odds with a statement made by NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil only yesterday, that the handing over of Al-Senussi would be what formed the basis of good relations between Libya and Mauritania. Jalil made the remark at the swearing-in ceremony of the successful candidates in the Benghazi local elections.
In the past, both Jalil and Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Kib have insisted that Al-Senussi would ultimately be handed over to Libya for trial. Most recently, whilst on a visit to the United Kingdom last week, El-Kib vowed that Al-Senussi would have his day in court: “This person needs to be tried in Libya soon so we can close the books on many of the crimes committed by the past regime”, he said. [/restrict]