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Canadians not welcome in Libya

Canadian travellers have been told they're not welcome in Libya, in an apparent reprisal for Canada's near tongue-lashing of Moammar Gadhafi.

Canadian travellers have been told they're not welcome in Libya, in an apparent reprisal for Canada's near tongue-lashing of Moammar Gadhafi.

Gadhafi cancelled a planned stopover in Newfoundland last month after the Harper government made public its intention to scold the Libyan leader over the hero's welcome Libya gave a man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Since then, Gadhafi has made clear to officials within Libya's travel documentation offices that no visas are to be granted to Canadians wanting to enter the country.

That has left some Canadians who were part of recent tourist groups travelling in the Middle East and North Africa in the lurch.

Canadian officials said on the weekend they were aware of the problem and that Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon raised the issue when he met with Libyan officials in Tripoli.

"We are aware of the difficulties experienced by a few Canadian citizens interested in visiting Libya," Cannon's press secretary Natalie Sarafian said in an email.

"Minister Cannon was in Libya [last] week where the issue was discussed. We are working towards a positive resolution of the matter."

Gadhafi drew international rebuke in August for throwing a huge welcome-home party for Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.

The national fete for a convicted terrorist outraged many, especially the relatives of the 270 victims killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the action "constituted an insult to all the victims who died, including Canadians."

Liberal reaction

While supporting the government's decision to rebuke Gadhafi over the celebration, Liberal consulate affairs critic Dan McTeague doubted Cannon showed the same bravado in front of Libyan officials that he used in public comments prior to Gadhafi cancelling his Newfoundland stopover.

"It appears that once again the Harper government demonstrates that its line is tough for the Canadian public but when it comes to actually managing these things internationally, not only does it get it wrong but it tends to contradict itself," said McTeague.

Not allowing Canadians into Libya may be an inconvenience for tourists who hoped to see the many attractions the north African country has to offer.

But the move could also put at risk development projects, including the geological work being done by at least one Canadian company on underwater aquifers in Libya. Calgary's Pure Technologies has employees who travel in and out of Libya to help monitor and maintain the infrastructure of the Great Man-Made River Project, the world's largest irrigation initiative.

Despite the recent problems, Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has not posted any new warnings about travel restrictions to Libya, and there is no mention of the issue on the Libyan Embassy's website. Embassy officials could not be reached for comment. 

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