Free money from Libya? In your dreams: Sanctions-busting offer was probably just propaganda.

September 01, 1996

MUAMMAR EL KADAFI'S offer of a $1 billion investment to American minority communities through the agency of the Nation of Islam was brilliant for its likelihood of making the most possible mischief at the least possible cost.

It was a dramatic gesture, just talk, totally cheap. Libya's dictator could count on the U.S. forbidding it under economic sanctions. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan owes Mr. Kadafi $5 million from an interest-free loan made to an NOI business venture in 1985. His effort to repay was blocked by the U.S. Treasury.

So there remains the theatrical offer to bolster the economy of African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos and Native Americans, blocked by the mean U.S. government. Never mind that any funds that did flow, in the suspicion of most Americans, would go first to relieve Mr. Farrakhan of embarrassment and fund his divisive and hate-mongering ideology. The proposal was one that would drive a wedge through American thinking, cost-free to Mr. Kadafi.

If the Nation of Islam sues, Mr. Farrakhan might find legal allies among churches and charities that abhor his politics but hope to keep channels free for donations from any source. The Wall Street Journal has reported that in 1992 Libya offered the American Red Cross, headed by Elizabeth Dole, $1 million. According to the newspaper, the Red Cross in principle accepted the gift, which never came.

As long as the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is discriminating against Libya under law and not against the Nation of Islam, a legal organization, OFAC is making the right and necessary call.

Experts doubt that Libya ever would put up $1 billion for this purpose far from home. Mr. Kadafi has been seeking other Islamic nations' contributions to his offer, in vain. Libya sells $7 billion worth of oil a year, but revenue has not kept up with budget demands and domestic burdens. Disquiet is growing.

The U.S. finds Libya to be supporting terrorism and demands that it hand over two suspects in the 1988 airliner bombing over Scotland. As long as the Libyan dictator stonewalls, and sanctions are in place, the Treasury is right to forbid the grant to the Nation of Islam.

Pub Date: 9/01/96

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