Lebanon and Libya’s Diplomatic Spat

Lebanon and Libya’s Diplomatic Spat

Beirut : Lebanon | Mar 17, 2010 at 8:30 AM PDT
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Arab League - Arab Force One

Lebanon has rejected an invitation to the Arab League summit due to be held later this month in Libya.

The ostensible reason is the Libyans sent their invitation to the Lebanese Embassy in Damascus, which is not able to respond to the invitation for administrative reasons.

The more pertinent reason for the refusal of Lebanon to attend the summit which will be held from March 27-28, is the mysterious disappearance of Shia Imam Musa al-Sadr in 1978. 

The Lebanese blame Libya and the Libyan "Leader of the Revolution" Moammar Gadhafi for orchestrating Musa al-Sadr's disappearance.

Libya insists that al-Sadr had already left for Italy before his disappearance.

The Italian government, meanwhile, has denied that he ever arrived in the country. The Italians did return a passport belonging to the Imam in 2004. The son of Musa Sadr filed a law suit in Beirut in 2004 against Gadhafi and 17 other Libyans.

Imam Musa al-Sadr, who was the leader of the Movement of the Deprived, is credited for the political mobilization of the Shi'a community in Lebanon. He was a widely respected political figure and his legacy still reigns large among the Shi'a community in Lebanon and across the region.

Therefore, those within the Shia community have been calling out for a boycott of the Arab League Summit most forcefully. One Lebanese Shia politician Yassin Jaber stated "If the [Libyan] insults continue, there is a possibility that Lebanon will cut its diplomatic ties with Libya."

It has been feared by some that the non-attendance by Lebanon could create a major diplomatic spat.

Reports circulated that Gaddafi would expel the roughly 20,000 Lebanese nationals that live and work in Libya and impose a embargo on Lebanese produce in response to Lebanon's refusal to attend the summit.

Oussama Safa, Director of the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies, believes such a drastic scenario would be unlikely. "Libya is trying to snub Lebanon by not extending an invitation to it. No other reaction is expected at this point," he stated.

As for the rest of the Arab League Lebanon's non-participation, Oussama Safa explained Lebanon's position:

"The Arab League understands Lebanon's decision though it would have wished for full participation. Lebanon's is not boycotting the League or its process and it will most likely sign off on the final declaration of its meeting."

Deen Shariff Sharp is based in Beirut, Jabal Lubnan, Lebanon, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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