I came across this article today. I found it very interesting, especially as I've also read how the US was responsible.
A very British coup
Monday December 22, 2003
In international affairs, genuine surprises are rare. When they do happen, they are often unpleasant - as in Argentina's invasion of the Falklands or Saddam's overnight conquest of Kuwait. Good news, when it comes, is generally long anticipated and discounted in advance. But neither was the case with Libya's weekend announcement concerning its non-conventional weapons. This was a surprise that was both totally unexpected and wholly welcome.
Libya's leader-for-life, Colonel Muammar Gadafy, enjoys a reputation for maverick, even eccentric behaviour. But this particular rabbit is easily the most spectacular he has produced in a long career. The Foreign Office, on the other hand, is not an organisation normally associated with conjuring tricks. Its central role in pulling off this coup redounds to its great credit. This is a seriously impressive achievement which will distinguish Jack Straw's often difficult tenure as foreign secretary. For the Foreign Office, it marks a return to form after a sorry spell on the Iraq bench. Yet if back-slapping is in order, congratulations should also go to Robin Cook, the man who relaunched British relations with Libya in 1999 and on whose policy of critical engagement this success is founded.
Patient diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation, clearly enunciated principles and red lines, respect, mutual trust, and attractive incentives - these are the civil tools that helped bring, at the weekend, perhaps the most significant, tangible breakthrough in arms control since the strategic weapons pacts of the later cold war era. Libya has gone from 1986 target of Ronald Reagan's bombs, from "rogue" sponsor of non-state, anti-western terrorism and, as it now admits, from active pursuer of nuclear and chemical arms to, if all sides honour the bargain, a prospectively valuable friend and partner.
This was not achieved by military power, by invasion, by shredding inter national law, by enforced regime change or by large-scale bloodshed. Nor, in fact, despite Mr Bush's eagerness for plaudits, was it primarily achieved by his administration at all. It was achieved by discussion - by endless talk, mostly in London, latterly in Libya, and finally in a London gentlemen's club. Boring perhaps, but effective; and here, with shock and awe, is a lesson for the Pentagon to absorb. Here is a measure of the true worth of the diplomacy espoused by Mr Cook and others. It bore fruit in Iran last week, another country which Britain refuses to join the US in ostracising. It could yet produce results in Syria, another low-grade WMD state, and in North Korea, if only senior US officials would stop threatening them.
What a great pity that Iraq's supposed WMD could not have been handled in a similarly intelligent, non-violent fashion. Certain ministers claim to find retrospective justification for the Iraq war in Libya's action, suggesting it had somehow been scared into compliance. This is sad, shabby stuff. Tripoli has powerful economic and political reasons for acting as it has; and indeed, Col Gadafy's own interests have been steadily converging with those of the US "war of terror" and America's oil industry. This slow process of rapprochement, including the ever painful Lockerbie saga, was in train long before Mr Bush let rip over Baghdad. But it took British diplomatic skills to draw in the WMD issue, make the connections and clinch the elusive deal.
To this delicate process, Washington's bellicosity formed a worrying backdrop, not a spur. As Libya has indicated, the Iraq war actually made agreement more difficult; it was eventually reached despite, not because of, Iraq. If anything, it now seems Mr Bush may have inadvertently invaded the wrong country. The fabled WMD were in Libya all along. All the more reason, next time around, for preferring words to guns and gung-ho.