Seen from Bulgaria: The Heavy Past of the Lybian Rebels, by Alexandre Levy

Le Monde-Blog

**Alexandre Levy is a journalist at Le Monde based in Sofia, Bulgaria.

When Moussa Koussa, Khadafi's minister of foreign affairs, decided to burn his bridges with the regime, he didn't rally the insurrection but the British capital, where his career on the international scene began some 30 years ago as an ambassador.

In 1980, he was expulsed from London on the order of the government because he made no secret of his intention to get rid of two of the opponents to the colonel's regime. Is this the same resistance he is now hoping to join?

Whatever he does, this man will not have the sympathies of Sofia. Here, the affair of the Bulgarian nurses - in which he was one of the main interlocutors of the West - has left painful memories. And in the eyes of the Bulgarians, things are mounting up. Moussa Koussa is at least the fourth heavy-weight in this affair to have turned his coat since the beginning of the Libyan revolt. The Leader of National Council for Transition, Mustapha Abdeljalil, former minister of justice of the colonel, was the first. "For us, he remains the President of the Appeals Court of Tripoli who confirmed the death sentence of the nurses," says Georghi Milkov from the daily "24 Tchassa," an arabic-speaking journalist who followed the saga of the nurses from 1999 to their liberation in 2007. "He is a faithful among the faithful who, as a reward for his unrelentlessness in the trial was made a minister in 2007," he adds.

And then, there is Idris Laga. This man who is now presented as the military coordinator of the National Transition Council, is known foremost in Bulgaria for having been the president of the Association of the parents of infected children - which was very active during the whole affair of the nurses.

"Officially considered to be independent, this organisation was created by the regime in order the raise the stakes by instrumentalising the sorrow of the victims," says university professor Vladimir Tchoukov, one fo the best specialist of the Arab world in Bulgaria. The portrait he paints of Idris Laga is anything but flattering: "He is a greedy man, without scruples, animated by a deep hatred of the West," he explains. This researcher, who has pored over all the Libyan press of the period - including the one claiming to be of the opposition - says today that he wants "France to know what kind of people she is supporting in Libya."

On March 11, in Brussels, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boiko Borissov himself, put his foot down. He reacted strongly to the decision - defended by France - to consider the NTC as a believable political interlocutor. "In this council, there are people who have tortured our nurses," he protested after a serious different with Nicolas Sarkozy. Without naming him by name, he certainly targeted yet another important transfuge, the minister of the Interior of Tripoli, Abdel Fattah Younis. Welcomed by a delirious crowd in Benghasi at the end of February, general Younis has become the darling of the West - the French foreign ministry relays a phone conversation between him and the French minister of foreign affairs, Alain Juppé, on its website on March 5 - hoping that his rallying will allow the rebels to pick up some confidence on the military terrain.

In Sofia, he has been nicknamed the "henchman-in-chief," because of the bad treatments which the nurses reported to have been inflicted upon them - rapes, electrochocs, dog bites, notably - attributed to his men and destined to make them confess to crimes which they maintain they never committed.

"More than any other country, Bulgaria should support the military intervention in Libya. And also remember that this a great example of the European solidarity:" from Brussels another voice Bulgarian voice makes itself heard, the one of European deputy Nadejda Mikhaïlova Neïnski, a representative of the liberal right who was minister of foreign affairs of her country when the affair of the nurses broke out. For her, the change of camp of the principal Libyan actors in this affair does not really raise any question. "Anyway, they acted on the orders of Khadafi. Today, the priority is to get all together to get rid of him."

What, then? Then, according to Vladimir Tchoukov, Europe should bet principally on the representative members of the Libyan diaspora, who alone were not compromised with the old regime. And this Paris and London are already doing, up to a point.

"But one should not forget that the Libyan opposition abroad has never condemned the regime in the affair of our nurses," adds Gueorgui Milkov. "Its representatives either shut up about it, or they greeted Gaddafi's actions." A past - one more past - that won't simply pass away... Bulgarians know something about this, too...