Cameron praises Libya NTC but ‘hardest part’ ahead

BBC UK Prime Minister David Cameron has praised Libya’s interim authority for the way it has established control over the country, but warned that the “hardest part” was still to come.

Mr Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are on a visit to Tripoli, the first by Western leaders since Col Muammar Gaddafi was ousted last month.

Mr Cameron said Col Gaddafi should give up and dismiss his mercenary fighters.

The leaders also vowed to free more frozen Libyan assets.

“The message, I think, to Gaddafi and all those holding arms on his behalf is: it is over. Give up. The mercenaries should go home,” Mr Cameron told a news conference in Tripoli.

Both he and Mr Sarkozy said Nato would continue its mission under a UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians until the last remnants of pro-Gaddafi forces were defeated.

Mr Sarkozy said Col Gaddafi remained a danger.

Britain and France were at the forefront of Nato’s operation in Libya.

‘Merci Sarkozy!’

The two leaders met National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders in Tripoli, and are to fly to the former rebel stronghold of Benghazi, where they will speak in Liberty Square.

NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil thanked Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy for taking “brave positions” during the Libyan uprising.

“They showed us political, economic and military support which helped the rebels establish a state, and we thank France and the UK for that,” he said.

Mr Sarkozy urged Libyans to avoid “vengeance and retaliation”, calling on them to preserve unity and seek reconciliation.

He said France’s focus was on consolidating the position of the NTC and pursuing the last remnants of the Gaddafi regime, rather than focusing on economic deals or reconstruction contracts.

Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy arrived in Libya earlier on Thursday and flew by helicopter to a hospital where they were greeted by crowds of cheering staff and patients.

The two leaders are hugely popular in Libya, where common graffiti slogans include: “Merci Sarkozy!” and “Thank you Britain!”

Their visit had been under consideration for several weeks, correspondents say. Initially the plan had been to wait until security had improved across Libya, but the trip was brought forward to show support for the NTC after its arrival in Tripoli at the weekend.

Mr Cameron, who is accompanied by UK Foreign Minister William Hague, was set to announce that Britain is to:

– deploy a UK military team to advise the NTC on security
– return Libyan assets totalling £600m ($948m) to the interim authorities as soon as possible
– make 50 places available in UK specialist hospitals for critically ill Libyans
– provide £600,000 for de-mining efforts and £60,000 to pay for a police communications system
– The UK on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would ease UN sanctions against Libya.

Many UN countries – including all five permanent members of the Security Council – have recognised the NTC as Libya’s legitimate authority. But the African Union, which met on Wednesday evening, has yet to do so.

Mr Sarkozy is reportedly travelling with 160 security officers, mostly from the specialist CRS riot squad.

Missing gold

On Friday, the NTC is to send a delegation to neighbouring Niger in an effort to recover gold and cash believed to have been taken out of Libya by fleeing Gaddafi loyalists. Mr Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe will also meet Niger’s leadership on Friday.

“Impunity is over,” Mr Sarkozy said.

At least 36 members of the fugitive leader’s inner circle, including relatives and generals, have fled to neighbouring Algeria and Niger since Tripoli fell to NTC forces last month.

Mr Abdul Jalil said Libya would also ask for the handover of individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC has indicted Col Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief for crimes against humanity.

Source: BBC

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