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Opinion

What should Obama do with Libya's Qaddafi? Tell him to go to Belarus.

The Obama administration should encourage its allies to influence Qaddafi to flee to Belarus. Its brutal Lukashenko regime is Qaddafi's closest military and political ally. Qaddafi's departure to Belarus would be the best and fastest way to stop the bloodshed that he is unleashing in Libya.

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Besides Mr. Lukashenko’s colorful tirades against the United States and his public show of support for Qaddafi, political and economic contact has increased substantially over the last decade between Tripoli and Minsk – to the point where Belarus is the only realistic country where Qaddafi would flee to if he were to leave Libya.

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Lukashenko, for his part, is becoming ever more isolated and erratic after a sham presidential election last December which was followed by a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters the likes of which Europe has not seen in recent memory. Even Lukashenko’s historical big brother and protector, Russia, has begun to distance itself from his dangerous behavior. Lukashenko remains undaunted, craves the international spotlight, and would relish the attention that accepting Qaddafi would give him.

Giving Qaddafi asylum stops bloodshed

Ten years ago, when Slobodan Milosevic was being forced from power in Serbia by a revolution, Belarus was prepared to consider granting the Serbian dictator asylum, as he was among Lukashenko’s closest allies. But Mr. Milosevic, under the illusion that he would rise to power again, chose to stay in Belgrade – where he was eventually apprehended. This little known episode from recent history has not been lost on Qaddafi or Lukashenko.

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The Obama administration should exploit this connection and encourage its allies in the region to nudge Qaddafi to flee to Belarus. This departure would be the best and fastest way to stop the bloodshed that Qaddafi is currently unleashing in Libya.

By granting Qaddafi asylum, Lukashenko would also show the his regime for what it is – a repository for washed up dictators who will eventually face collective justice when Belarus follows the revolutionary path of its North African client state, Libya.

Mark Douglas Lenzi is a former country director for the International Republican Institute and US Fulbright Scholar on Belarus.

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