Libya hosts Western stars to remember US raid

Basking in its two-year-old rapprochement with the West, Libya boasts that this year its commemorations of Washington’s deadly 1986 air strikes on its main cities will be joined by Western stars.

Veteran United States soul singer Lionel Ritchie and Spanish tenor Jose Carreras are among the acts that Libya says will be performing in the capital in the early hours of Saturday, exactly 20 years after US warplanes flying out of British bases hit their targets, killing at least 40 people.

“A big festival is planned near the [Tripoli] residence of leader Moammar Gadaffi, where his [adopted] daughter Hana died in the US strike,” an information ministry official said.

“Artists from the US and Europe will take part to send the whole world a message that art is capable of uniting peoples whom politics has divided and to express their regret for what their governments did.”

The commemoration is to be called the “Hana Festival for Freedom and Peace” in remembrance of the Libyan leader’s slain daughter. It is scheduled to kick off at 2.30am local time, the exact time that the US raid on the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi began in revenge for a bomb attack on a West Berlin disco frequented by US army personnel which Washington blamed on Libyan agents.

Candles will be lit and patriotic songs sung before the concert proper gets under way.

Ritchie and Carreras are among 65 foreign musicians who are booked to perform.

A second concert is to be held in the same venue on Saturday evening featuring Arabic music by guest performers, including Egyptian singer Mohammed Munir. A film on the US raid entitled The Resistance to the Attack is also to be shown, along with children’s drawings and paintings.

A conference is to be held, which organisers hope will be attended by Western academics, on the theme: The US attack, its consequences and the right of Libyans to compensation and an apology.

“In a bad world where Iraq is occupied and racism reigns in every country, we are sending out a message of peace through the artists of the world,” said organiser Osama Mohammed.

Then US president Ronald Reagan famously called Gadaffi the “mad dog” of the Middle East in his justification of the US bombings.

But unlike the Iranian and Iraqi regimes, which went on to form part of President George Bush’s “axis of evil”, the Libyan leader was pragmatic enough to call in the very Western intelligence services he had long assailed to certify his abandonment of efforts to acquire non-conventional weapons.

The resulting public announcement in late 2003 was followed by the restoration of relations by Washington in June the following year.

But Gadaffi never forgave Reagan himself for the bombings.
When the former president died in June 2004, the Libyan leader said he regretted his death because it meant he could never be prosecuted for his crimes “against the children of Libya”.—AFP

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