Strache sends emissary to Libya

An Austrian right-winger has travelled to Libya in an alleged attempt to end the violent conflict in the North African country.

Freedom Party (FPÖ) boss Heinz-Christian Strache confirmed today (Mon) that FPÖ Vienna councillor David Lasar was in Tripoli, the federal capital of the civil war-shattered nation. Strache explained he decided to send Lasar as his official emissary to Libya after being asked to mediate in the conflict.

Lasar is a member of the Jewish community in Austria. He has caused heated debates by attacking Muslims living in the country over their alleged unwillingness to integrate. The issue has been given a lot of attention by the FPÖ in its recent, mostly successful, election campaigns.

Strache explained today his chief aim was to stop the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from attacking the country. The USA, France and the United Kingdom have been spearheading a military mission against the forces of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi for some weeks. Their actions are under scrutiny over news that the number of accidental attacks on civilians and opposition troops is increasing.

The FPÖ chairman revealed he had been in touch with Saif al-Islam, one of the Libyan dictator’s sons. The Austrian right-winger – whose popularity is growing, according to polls – explained he could imagine travelling to Tripoli himself “depending on the international situation.”

Al-Islam was a close friend to late FPÖ chief and Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) founder Jörg Haider. The infamous right-winger – Strache’s political idol – met with both al-Islam and his father many times. Haider always stressed the gatherings occurred to negotiate business partnerships of Libyan companies with firms based in the southern province of Carinthia. He also cited humanitarian issues as his ambition to travel to Libya where tens of thousands have joined the rebels’ forces in their bid to topple Gaddafi.

Haider, who died in a car crash in 2008, headed the Austrian-Libyan Society. The association still exists. Newspapers and magazines claimed the FPÖ could have pocketed millions of Euros by its intense attempts to whitewash Gaddafi’s reputation in the Western World. Reports have it that up to 25 million US dollars in cash could have been transferred from Libya to Austria to support the FPÖ under Haider on the campaign trail.

It is unclear whether Lasar met with official representatives of the Libyan government. The FPÖ Vienna councillor held a press conference in Tripoli at the weekend, according to news agencies. Lasar said he went to Libya to receive a first-hand impression. “I’m not a politician who is solely bound to his desk,” he argued.

The Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Green Party called on the FPÖ to reveal its coffers. The SPÖ – which forms a coalition with the People’s Party (ÖVP) – and the Greens, an opposition faction, hint that the FPÖ was receiving financial support from the controversial Libyan regime following the visit by Lasar. “We suspect that the FPÖ is rather concerned about a drying up of its Libyan money source than about peace in Libya,” the Greens announced today. The FPÖ claimed it never kept its financing policies a secret, adding that it had nothing to hide.

Meanwhile, Strache disclosed he considered meeting with representatives of the Syrian government and the country’s opposition if this helped to end the brutal occurrences in the Arabian state. “I would happily try to act as a mediator between (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad and the rebels to find a solution for the conflict,” the Eurosceptic said.

Strache caused a stir by visiting nationalist politicians in Israel last December. Right-wingers from all over Europe travelled to the country – which has been criticised for its policies regarding Palestine – alongside the FPÖ chief.

Strache, who has headed the FPÖ since 2005, has shown some effort in creating alliances across the continent for some time.

The FPÖ leader recently vowed to cooperate with the Pro Köln movement more closely. Pro Köln is a far-right citizens’ movement campaigning against the concerns of the Muslim community in the German city of Cologne like the construction of new mosques.

However, the FPÖ boss also stressed he did not want Hungary’s Jobbik party in his possible new European union of right-wing forces. Jobbik has been harshly criticised by politicians and non-government organisations (NGOs) from all over the continent for its stance on the rights of Roma in Hungary. The far-right movement is linked with the foundation of vigilante troops marching up in rural towns and communities populated by Roma people. The troops are also accused of physically attacking members of the repressed community.