MP wants Libya cash for helping oust Gaddafi

By Alex Stevenson

Libya should pay back Britain for the costs of its military operations against Muammar Gaddafi, an MP has said.

Daniel Kawczynski, the chair of parliament's all-party parliamentary group on Libya, told he wanted to see the national transitional council make the payments as soon as oil production resumes.

"There should be a timetable for when the country starts to get back on its feet that repayments are made to the United Kingdom," he said.

"It can't be for the British taxpayer to fund conflicts all around the world. We have got massive debts, we're spending £120 million a day servicing our national debt.

"This is not something to be embarrassed about. We have put our soldiers' lives at risk. We have spent an inordinate amount of money in pursuing this war. And, quite frankly, we've done them a great service."

The final cost of the Libya conflict to the UK taxpayer will not be known until operations cease. Latest estimates from the Ministry of Defence put the estimated bill for the first six months of operations at £260 million.

Mr Kawczynski said he expected Libya would be able to pay the bill in spite of Colonel Gaddafi's "megalomaniac economics". The NTC could draw on up to $450 billion held around the world with the Libyan sovereign welfare fund, he suggested.

The Ministry of Defence said any refund would go to Nato rather than directly to Britain.

"It would be strange, if the new regime in Libya was minded to make a contribution or refund the costs of the Nato operation, just to provide money to one participating country rather than to everyone," a spokesperson said.

Libya has two per cent of the world's oil reserves and the UK government is already considering its options in winning contracts under the NTC.

"The UK has active plans to help British businesses get back into the Libyan market," a Whitehall source said.

"British oil companies have been major players in Libya and I'm sure they'll want to get back in there."

Mr Kawczynski argued that a decision by Libya to repay Britain would remove suspicions about the neutrality of business deals.

He added: "We need to have a clean sheet, whereby we can approach them for contracts like any other country without somebody saying 'the Brits have won that contract because we're in hock to them. They are using their position, having helped to liberate our country, to ensure all the contracts go to them'.

"We need to wipe the slate clean by having a payment to cover the costs of our engagement in that."

He pointed out that Kuwait had contributed to the cost of the first Gulf War after it was invaded by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The kingdom paid the US around $16 billion alone to offset the cost of US Desert Shield and Desert Storm.