Democracy for Libya, as in Iraq

President Bush should not be satisfied only with dismantling Libya's nuclear, chemical, and germ weapons programs, as welcome as that offer from Muammar Qaddafi is.

To really ensure that the mercurial dictator (and his heirs-apparent sons) don't once again become a global menace, the United States must keep its economic sanctions - including no oil investments - until the Libyans can vote for their leaders in a fair election.

After all, Mr. Bush demanded democracy for post-Saddam Hussein Iraq as a first step toward reforming the terrorist-nurturing Middle East.

He should demand the same of Mr. Qaddafi, whose past support of terrorists and wars compares to that of Mr. Hussein, who's now watching a democracy being built in Iraq even as he sits in US custody awaiting trial.

Qaddafi's recent actions indicate he may be sincere in trying to reform his ways in hopes of uplifting Libya's wrecked economy before he hands over leadership to one of his sons.

He has acknowledged Libya's responsibility for the bombing in 1988 of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, and promises $27 million to the families of the victims. He has condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and provided information on groups tied to Al Qaeda. He's moved from being a trouble-maker in African conflicts to an awkward peacemaker.

He's announced an end to state socialism, released some political prisoners, and reduced his reign of domestic terror. He's even suggested to other Arab leaders that Israel be invited to join the Arab League.

This charm offensive is driven by necessity and not a change of heart. Qaddafi needs help at home to develop Libya's vast oil resources, and his decision to admit that he was making unconventional weapons and is now willing to give up them came only after the US had invaded Iraq and was putting renewed pressure on Iran and North Korea to end their weapons programs.

Besides by moving toward democracy, Libya can also help itself and the world by revealing which nations helped supply it with the technology and know-how for weapons of mass destruction.

Bush said on Friday that if Libya "demonstrates its seriousness" about ending its weapons capability, the US will help it become "a more free and prosperous country." That help toward freedom may need to be coercive, in the form of continuing sanctions. The president must not let the lure of oil investments in Libya influence this one victory in his campaign against terrorism.

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