Clinton urges new Libya to fight extremism

Editor’s Note: Winner of this week’s most hypocritical story award

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
© AFP Miguel Medina

AFP

PARIS (AFP) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Libya’s emerging new political leaders Thursday to fight violent extremism and ensure fallen leader Moamer Kadhafi’s weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.

In a speech in Paris welcoming the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) into the world fold, the chief US diplomat also said NATO’s air mission over Libya should continue as long as Libyan civilians remain under threat.

She pressed for further international efforts to release frozen Kadhafi-era funds and backed UN-led efforts to help the NTC build an inclusive democracy, that respects human rights and shuns violence as a political tool.”

In her intervention before NTC and world leaders at the “Friends of Libya” gathering, Clinton alluded to concerns about an Islamist militant role in toppling Kadhafi and the fate of Libya’s weapons stockpiles.

“Libya’s new leadership will need to continue to stand against violent extremism and work with us to ensure that weapons from Kadhafi’s stockpiles do not threaten Libya’s neighbours and the world,” she said.

In Tripoli, Ahmed Darrat, who is overseeing the interior ministry for the rebels until a new government is elected, told AFP the warning smacked of Kadhafi’s scare-mongering over an Islamist threat to protect his regime.

“Saying that there are armed extremists in Libya is what Kadhafi used to say,” he said, adding that the rebels had a plan to round up weapons and integrate fighters either into the police force or a new national army.

US officials accompanying Clinton told reporters she had delivered the same message about extremism and weapons when she met here with NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil and prime minister Mahmud Jibril.

US officials have raised concerns about the fate of portable missiles while they want to ensure the NTC adopts “best practices” as it assumes control over stockpiles of ingredients that can be used in chemical and nuclear weapons.

Clinton also discussed securing weapons stocks when she met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US officials said.

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Prominent among the rebel chiefs has been Abdelhakim Belhaj, whose fighters stormed Kadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya sprawling and fortified headquarters in the heart of Tripoli on August 23.

According to France’s Liberation newspaper, the rebel commander for Tripoli was a founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), close to Al-Qaeda, and was arrested by the CIA before being handed over to Kadhafi in 2004.

Belhaj reportedly renounced violence while a prisoner and was released in March 2010, before joining this year’s revolution.

His return to the front line raised concerns that the revolt against Kadhafi might include undemocratic forces, but Sarkozy’s office insists it has no concerns about Belhaj’s current affiliation.

Clinton urged the fugitive Kadhafi, sons and loyalists to “lay down their arms” and said the world will help the NTC to “demobilise and integrate fighters into a single security force.”

She pushed for further international recognition of the NTC as the interim governing authority and said it should take Libya’s seat at the United Nations.

In supporting international moves to help the cash-strapped NTC, she said $700 million of the $1.5 billion to be unfrozen in the United States is now being made available for fuel and civilian salaries.

“The international community, led by the UN, needs to help the Libyan people and its leaders pave a path to a sustainable, inclusive democracy that banishes violence as a political tool and promotes tolerance and pluralism,” she said.

But, recalling that Thursday marked the 42nd anniversary of Kadhafi’s seizure of power in Tripoli, Clinton said the building blocks of democracy would take time to put in place.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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