Past UK-Gaddafi ties not seen affecting trade-envoy

TRIPOLI, Sept 26 Mon Sep 26, 2011 1:10pm EDT

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TRIPOLI, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Britain's past business and security dealings with Muammar Gaddafi's Libya are not expected to affect bilateral trade following his ousting, the UK special representative to the oil-producing country said on Monday.

Asked whether there was any residual awkwardness between Britain and Libya's new interim rulers over years of links between Gaddafi officials and British officials and businessmen, John Jenkins said that he did not know but he suspected Libya would be "pragmatic".

"Many people have had complicated relationships with the former regime. I haven't detected any sign that it's going to be a major obstacle to doing business," Jenkins, accompanied by visiting Trade Minister Lord Green, told a news conference.

Referring to National Transitional Council (NTC) chairman and de facto Libyan president Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Gaddafi's former justice minister, Jenkins added: "We've all had complicated relationships with Libya, as many countries have had. Jalil himself has said there needs to be an accounting for everyone, including him. I think there will be.

"But my sense is that they want to make a break with the past. I think there'll be a pragmatic view of how Libya reconstructs itself ... I think they will draw a distinction.

"I think people who can bring things to the new Libya will be welcomed."

Green, who led a delegation of executives from companies including BP and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), said they had met officials of the NTC including the ministers of commerce, oil, planning and reconstruction, the deputy central bank governor and the National Oil Company.

Jenkins said the authorities were not expected to take "long-term strategic decisions" before the establishment of constitutional government and elections.

Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Sept. 5 "significant accusations" had been made that relations between the British and Libyan security services became too close under the previous Labour government, in power for 13 years until 2010.

The military commander for Tripoli under Libya's provisional government, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a former Islamist guerrilla opponent of Gaddafi's, was among suspected Libyan militants captured and sent to Libya by the CIA, Human Rights Watch said.

Belhadj has demanded an apology from Britain for what he said was its role in assisting the United States in transferring him to Libya, where he says he was tortured.

Britain says the incident will be examined by an inquiry into whether its security services knew about the torture of terrorism suspects overseas.

A spokesman for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he visited Gaddafi in Libya ahead of the release from a Scottish prison of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a Libyan who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

But the spokesman insisted there was no impropriety in the contacts. The Sunday Telegraph said it had found letters and emails which showed Blair, who left office in 2007, had visited Gaddafi in June 2008 and April 2009, once using the then Libyan leader's jets and bringing along an American billionaire. (Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Robert Woodward)

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