Sunday’s capture of Seif al-Islam Gadhafi by rebels appears to bring to a close the diplomatic career of a man widely seen as destined to succeed his father as leader of Libya and its vast oil wealth.
Mr. Gadhafi, 39 years old, just months ago was widely credited as the brains behind Tripoli’s rapprochement with the West and Libya’s efforts to shed its rogue-state image.
Mr. Gadhafi never held a formal government position and often was locked in intense power struggles with other members of Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s family and inner circle, according to U.S. and European officials. But Seif al-Islam used his fluent English, British education and global charity, the Gadhafi International Foundation, to play a major role in events cross the Islamic world, Europe and U.S. for two decades.
He also developed a reputation as a renaissance man and international playboy before political crisis gripped his country this year. He worked as an artist and architect and was regularly spotted among the international jet set in Monaco, St, Tropez and Montenegro.
Mr. Gadhafi first attracted international attention in the mid-1990s when he helped the Philippines’ Catholic-dominant government reach a peace agreement with Muslim separatists on the island of Mindanao. The pact eventually broke down, but Seif al-Islam used the experience to position himself as a diplomatic facilitator and bridge between Islam and the West.
The younger Gadhafi became a major player in secret negotiations aimed at restoring diplomatic relations between Libya and the U.S., according to current and former U.S. officials. In the early months of the George W. Bush administration, Seif al-Islam facilitated a string of meetings between Col. Gadhafi’s aides and senior U.S. official that culminated in a full normalization of relations between Washington and Tripoli in 2006.
Seif al-Islam also helped persuade his father to pay out billions of dollars in restitution to the families of the victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, which a Libyan national was convicted of orchestrating, according to U.S. officials. He was also instrumental in pressing Libyan officials to agree in 2003 to give up Tripoli’s nascent nuclear program.
Still, U.S and European officials say Seif al-Islam never seemed to fully free himself from the erratic policies of his father or the Libyan government’s violent history. And this year he quickly appeared to lose his reputation as a reformer after rebels took up arms against his father. He surprised many Western audiences by telling a television interviewer that tens of thousands of rebels would die in a “river of blood” if they didn’t end their rebellion.