McCain urges recognition, weapons for Libya rebels

Senior US Senator John McCain
© AFP Marwan Naamani

AFP

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Visiting US Senator John McCain on Friday urged the international community to arm and recognise the rebel Transitional National Council as the “legitimate voice” of Libya’s people.

“I would encourage every nation, especially the United States, to recognise the Transitional National Council as the legitimate voice of the Libyan people. They have earned this right,” McCain said at a news conference in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

The Mediterranean city of Benghazi, run by the TNC, was “a powerful and hopeful example of what a free Libya could be,” the senior senator said after meeting rebel leaders.

“I met with all the key leaders of the Council and applaud their remarkable progress in their struggle for liberation,” he said, adding that “Benghazi today is a source of hope.”

McCain dismissed fears that Islamists had infiltrated Libya’s parallel government in the east — recognised so far by France, Italy and Qatar — or rebel troops on the front.

“I have met these great fighters and they are not Al-Qaeda. To the contrary, they are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it,” he said.

McCain also called for the arming of rebels fighting Moamer Kadhafi’s forces, saying that capable countries should assist them with more weapons and training to help them oust the Libyan strongman, who had “forfeited” his right to rule by committing “atrocities” against civilians.

“Responsible nations need to provide the military forces of the TNC with every possible means of assistance to enable them to create conditions on the ground that increase pressure on Kadhafi to leave power,” he said.

McCain said he favoured financing the rebels through Kadhafi regime funds that have been frozen abroad.

He said he supported intensified air strikes by high precision planes against Kadhafi’s fighters, but opposed the deployment of ground troops, saying rebels would be better served by command and control support and intelligence.

Dozens of Libyans assembled outside the hotel as the senator spoke, waving flags in an enthusiastic show of support for the United States which has committed drone warplanes and $25 million in humanitarian assistance.

“We came to say thank you to America which has helped us so much,” said Ramada al-Sheiki, a 47-year-old electrician.

A Libyan mother of three, Mushira Abdel-Hafi, 40, said: “If the military aid he offers is truly humanitarian we welcome it.”

“But if it is anything more than that, then it is best for Libya’s fighters to free their own country,” she added, echoing sentiments expressed by rebel troops from Benghazi to Ajdabiya.

© AFP Published at Activist Post with license

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