- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

LONDON Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who once supported violent revolutionaries with money and guns, now is positioning himself as a defender of democracy, constitutional rules and federalism to resolve ethnic disputes.

His advice to Islamic separatists from the Philippines to Chechnya is to give up the struggle and integrate with their neighbors. This new message of respectability is being carried by his most trusted ambassador, son Seif Islam Gadhafi.

Mr. Gadhafi says Chechens, for instance, would be better off being part of a powerful Russia than forming a separate Caucasian statelet. "We told them, 'We want Muslims to be in the Russian government.'"

Mr. Gadhafi told a meeting at London's Royal Institute for International Affairs this month that Muslims should learn from Jews. "Jews in America do not ask for a separate state. That's why they are stronger. They have influence in a very influential superpower. The Jewish model in America is a good model for Muslims all over the world."

Mr. Gadhafi's audience listened with some bemusement as he detailed his vision for resolving the most burning international disputes.

Rather than trying to carve out a Palestinian state alongside Israel, Mr. Gadhafi showed a slide depicting his idea of a Jewish-Arab "Federal Republic of the Holy Land," comprising five regions and Jerusalem as a "city state."

When questioners asked if it was practical, Mr. Gadhafi said that Israel would first have to admit all of the Palestinian refugees, and then elections would be held to decide who would lead the new federated state.

If Israel refused, the world should exert economic and political pressure. After all, Libya has been subjected to sanctions for years to make it change behavior.

Turning to the crisis between India and Pakistan, Mr. Gadhafi said an independent Kashmir, as desired by a large proportion of the people in the divided state, was impractical.

What was needed, Mr. Gadhafi argued, was to re-create the old Raj, uniting India, Pakistan and Bangladesh into a superstate, along with Sri Lanka for good measure.

"Imagine a country with a [gross domestic product] of $500 billion, a population of 1.3 billion and 140 nuclear warheads," he said. "It could have a Muslim prime minister or president."

Ever since the elder Gadhafi began cooperating with the West on the Lockerbie bombing, the world has taken a more kindly view of the new Libya. A Libyan agent, Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, is serving a 20-year sentence in a Glasgow, Scotland, prison for planting the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 in the Scottish town, killing 270 persons, in 1988. Libya, Britain and the United States are now engaged in talks over a demand for millions of dollars in compensation for the victims.

"They are adopting a new policy. We have seen no evidence of Libyan support for terrorism in recent years. They have signed all 12 anti-terrorism conventions, but we still have concerns in some areas," a British Foreign Office official said.

On the issue of the Lockerbie bombing, Mr. Gadhafi said he believed in the innocence of Megrahi. But he dropped a hint that Libya will, in the end, succumb to Western demands for compensation to the victims.

"We are a very small country compared to the U.S.," he said. "If you met Mike Tyson around the corner and he asks you for money, you cannot say no."

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