New Libya replaces Gaddafi’s tent at UN
New York – For decades Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was an outlandish fixture at the UN General Assembly with his tent and rambling speeches. This year the rebels who ousted him will hold the spotlight.
The United States and its allies, who led efforts to back the revolutionaries in their bid to end Gaddafi’s iron-fisted rule, meet on Tuesday on the sidelines of the UN talks to discuss a new future for Libya.
The meeting will come after the first talks between US President Barack Obama and Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of Libya’s National Transitional Council – the body now being recognised as the north African nation’s legitimate leaders.
The talks will “confirm the start of a new phase which began with the Paris summit and the beginning of an increased role in the United Nations”, said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Monday.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was hailed as a hero when he visited Tripoli last week, will also join Tuesday’s talks.
One of the aims of the talks will be to replace the Libya contact group with a “group of friends of Libya, whose make-up and function will be determined by the secretary general”, he added.
The NTC “will also voice its needs to help the country rebuild and the international community will reaffirm its support for the new Libya”.
“Tomorrow morning, the new Libya will symbolically be fully integrated into the United Nations,” Juppe said, as the green, red and black flag used by the old Libyan monarchy was raised on Monday for the first time at the UN.
Created on March 29 in London, the political “Contact Group” on Libya gathers 30 countries and several international organisations including the United Nations, Nato and the Arab League.
It has worked to support the revolt against Gaddafi who ruled Libya for four decades, including unblocking the fallen regime’s funds which had been frozen by governments around the world.
Two years ago Gaddafi delivered a diatribe against the West when he addressed the UN General Assembly for more than 90 minutes. This year the once flamboyant leader, and his son Saif al-Islam, are fugitives wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Both men have been on the run since the rebels overran Tripoli on August 23 after launching their uprising in February.
Keen to avoid any contrast with the Palestinians – who are seeking to push their bid for UN membership for a Palestinian state – the US administration is aiming to highlight Libya where it believes its strategy has been a success.
“We have put a lot of effort into Libya … the past several weeks to get international support for a post-Gaddafi Libya,” said Obama’s national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
“At the meetings tomorrow, I think it is an effort to mark an extraordinary achievement by the UN,” he added, briefing reporters on Air Force One as Obama headed to New York.
A UN resolution, adopted earlier this year which authorises the use of force to aid the uprising, was a “rare and historic moment where all necessary measures were provided to protect civilians”, Rhodes added.
Obama was hoping to hear the NTC’s “plans for an inclusive transition in Libya” while the talks would also underscore “the critical role the UN is going to play… as Libya moves to a post-Gaddafi government”.
There has already been criticism about the slow pace of getting a new government off the ground in Libya. Its creation was put off indefinitely again on Sunday amid disputes over portfolios.
Libya will also figure high on separate talks between Obama, Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon meanwhile on Monday named his special envoy to Libya, Ian Martin, as the head of the UN’s support mission in the country and the world body’s new representative to Tripoli.
Martin has been co-ordinating the work of UN agencies with initiatives by the World Bank and “liaised closely” with the transitional authorities in Libya, a UN statement said.