Former MI5 chief Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller has justified the dialogue initiated by the British government with Colonel Gadhafi of Libya in 2003.
Speaking at her third BBC Radio Reith lecture on 'Securing Freedom,' Eliza said: The prize was the abandonment of his programme for nuclear weapons. Talking doesn't mean approval. It is a way of exploring peaceful options.
Eliza, who retired from her service in 2007, emphasized that there was nothing wrong if the government initiated talks with autocratic regimes. She went on to say that the government should engage in talks with terrorists too. Talks could bring down terror threats, she reasoned.
From my own perspective in the Security Service, I know that protecting British citizens would be impossible if we were restricted to talking to those with values we share, she said.
She said, Look at Northern Ireland, where former terrorists are in government, look at Nelson Mandela and the ANC, which used terror tactics when it was in exile. We should welcome this, not damn it. However, the former MI5 head was of the view that this strategy would not be easy to adopt.
Commenting on terror outfit Al-Qaeda, Eliza said, I am not naïve about al-Qaeda. I don't see Ayman Al-Zawahiri turning up at a conference table. Not all terrorists are evil, though their acts are. But there are components of al-Qaeda you could talk to.
She acknowledged the recent allegation on British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, which is believed to have developed a close rapport with its Libyan counterpart. She said there were several questions about the relationship with Libya which should be answered since it was decided to bring Gadhafi in from the cold.
This was not the first time that the former MI5 chief raised questions about the strategy adopted by political masters. In her previous Reith lectures, she provoked a few of her former political players in Tony Blair's government by slamming the incursion of Iraq and condemning the expression war on terror.
However, it is interesting to note that Eliza's comments came at a time when the U.S. government has come out with a plan to set up a political headquarters for Taliban in Qatar at the end of this year.