Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

World powers hail the new Libya at Paris summit

Russia recognises NTC as new rulers with China looking likely to follow suit, while fugitive Qaddafi says 'let Libya burn'.

Leaders of Libya's triumphant rebels were feted in Paris last night as legitimate rulers of their country at a summit of world powers designed to help them to chart a way forward from chaos and conflict.

On the 42nd anniversary of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's own seizure of power, key figures of the National Transitional Council met senior delegates from 60 nations in the French capital to plan Libya's future.

The conference urged the UN Security Council to adopt a new resolution to aid recovery by unblocking frozen Libyan assets running into billions of dollars around the world.

The meeting at the Elysée Palace was staged five-and-a-half months after a much more solemn gathering in the same venue to co-ordinate UN-sanctioned military action to end Col Qaddafi's bloody attempts to crush revolt.

The deposed dictator, now a fugitive, broadcast a radio message yesterday urging his supporters to fight on. "If Libya burns, who can govern it? So let it burn," he said.

The NTC interior minister, Ahmed Darrat, described the message as "a sign of misery and despair".

Libya's embryonic government was given a massive boost immediately before yesterday's meeting when Russia, a critic of the military operation against the Qaddafi regime, announced that it now recognised the NTC as the "ruling authority".

China, a substantial investor in Libya, was also represented at the conference, raising hopes that it would follow Moscow's lead despite having shared Russia's misgivings.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing "respects the choice made by the Libyan people and attaches importance to the significant position and role played by the NTC. We are willing to maintain close contact with it and push forward the smooth progress of China-Libyan relations."

Signs of a softening in the stance of Libya's neighbour Algeria also appeared. The foreign minister Mourad Medelci, in Paris for the conference, welcomed the NTC promise to set up a "government representative of all regions" and said this would lead to recognition from Algiers.

Meanwhile, the UN is ready to lead an international mission to help Libya back on its feet, the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told delegates.

Mr Ban said Libyan, Arab, African and European leaders were agreed that "at this critical moment the international community must come together with an effective, well-coordinated programme of action".

And the EU decided in Brussels to play its part by lifting sanctions imposed on Libya earlier this year as pressure on Col Qaddafi intensified.

Among envoys taking part - and the broad nature of global representation was seen as a notable success - there was a mood of sober satisfaction that the UN-sanctioned operation appears to have led to the desired outcome.

But there was also recognition of the need to avoid the pitfalls of post-invasion Iraq. The British prime minister, David Cameron, co-hosting the meeting with the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, was at pains to stress there was no intention of telling the Libyan people what to do.

"This is a Libyan-owned, Libyan-led process," he said. "The international community are there to help, there to give assistance, there to give advice, but the action and the plan is being drawn up and carried out by the Libyans, and that's right."

Mr Sarkozy struck a similar note while emphasising the international goodwill towards the fledgling government. He said that with the participation of the UN, Arab League and African Union, the world would "turn the page on dictatorship and fight to open a new era of cooperation with a democratic Libya".

The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton met the NTC's national chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, and its prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, the council's prime minister, before the conference.

NTC leaders have been left in little doubt about the priorities they must tackle to prevent Libya sliding into post-conflict mayhem.

Reliable water supplies must be restored, hospitals rebuilt and the system of government overhauled. There is also pressure to "police the peace", establishing the rule of law in Tripoli and regional areas, with international help in training security services likely to be provided.

Speaking before the meeting, the French foreign minister Alain Juppé also referred to moves to unfreeze Libyan assets. "There are tens of billions of euros in frozen assets," he said on French radio. "The Americans have unblocked theirs and the British, French and Germans are doing the same."

Mr Juppé denied knowledge of claims in the French press that rebel leaders had promised France control of 35 per cent of Libyan oil production in reward for its prominent role in supporting the anti-Qaddafi insurgency. The reports were also dismissed by the NTC .

Pockets of dissent in the international community remain. South Africa boycotted the Paris conference because of its strong opposition to Nato's military intervention.

The president Jacob Zuma said during a state visit to Norway that his country was unhappy with the way UN resolution 1973 declaring a no-fly zone over Libya had been interpreted to permit air strikes.

"Instead of the UN leading the process, instead of Nato leading the process, we had individual countries, too many people taking the process away. That tended to sideline all the important people," he said.


* With additional reporting by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National