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15 Sep, 2011 09:22

Cameron, Sarkozy pledge more power to new Libya

French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British premiere David Cameron have pledged to continue financial and military support for the National Transitional Council. The announcement came during the leaders’ joint visit to Libya.

Speaking at a press conference, Cameron said that the first and the most urgent measure to be taken is the unfreezing of Libyan financial assets. Britain has announced it is unfreezing 600 million pounds worth of Libyan money, Reuters quoted a spokesman for David Cameron’s office as saying on Thursday."We are unfreezing their assets. They need to do things like pay public sector workers and the police force," the spokesman said.The British PM also expressed respect for the rebel fighters, calling them “incredibly brave in removing a dreadful dictatorship.” Later, he visited a hospital to meet soldiers injured in the fighting. Cameron underlined his conviction that Gaddafi’s time is up. “The message to Gaddafi and those still holding arms on his behalf is – it is over. Give up!” said the British PM.He has also promised that Britain will continue to work with NATO while there is still a need to protect civilians in the country. Sarkozy repeated his message, saying that air strikes against pro-Gaddafi forces “will continue as long as Libyan leaders think Libyan people are in danger.”Asked if there was an economic motive for the military support of the rebels the French leader insisted that “there were no kickbacks, no hidden agreements to access Libya’s resources. We did what we thought was fair.”Both sides have been talking of human rights abuses since the beginning of the conflict. When Gaddafi shelled Benghazi, the West spoke of saving civilians. However, now absolutely nothing is being done about the safety of civilians during the ongoing attack on Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte, says Sukant Chandan, a spokesman for British Civilians for Peace in Libya. “But that is the whole point of this NATO aggression on Libya,” he told RT. “It’s got nothing to do with protection of the civilians! Mr. Jalil, he said in his speech on the Green Square that the Islamists will never take over. He said to his rebels: ‘Do not attack women and children! Leave them out of this!’ – which is an admission from the NTC that his rebels have been attacking women and children.”

Sarkozy and Cameron are the first Western leaders to visit the country since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. French media reports say Sarkozy is accompanied by dozens of French riot police, in what is seen as an unusual move.The security situation in the country remains complicated with pockets of pro-Gaddafi forces still fighting in some parts of Libya. But the head of the National Transitional Council, Mahmoud Jibril, guaranteed the safety of the two leaders. The visit was intended to be low-key, but it was quickly highlighted by the international media.

Imported legitimacy

According to Middle East analyst James Denselow, the visit of two of Europe’s top political leaders to Libya is a symbolic act, showing that the Libyan National Transitional Council is a legitimate authority. “I think it is real validation of the legitimacy of the new leadership,” he said. “Ultimately, the Americans sent an Assistant Secretary of State yesterday to Tripoli and now you have some of the allies who are responsible for leading the NATO air campaign that ultimately was largely responsible for the victory of the rebels themselves.“So, it is a real moment and it ultimately occurs at a time when fighting is still ongoing in parts of the country, but ultimately it will give the rebel authorities, now the government authority, a real diplomatic boost,” Denselow added.

Abayimi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, agrees that the visit is aimed at reinforcing the  legitimacy of the National Transitional Council, although he uses quite different language to describe the situation.“I believe that the visit on the part of Nicolas Sarkozy of France and David Cameron of Britain is an attempt to show up this neo-colonial takeover of the most oil-rich and the most prosperous country on the African continent,” he told RT.Azikiwe says the war in Libya is far from over, citing recent attacks presumed to have been committed by  Gaddafi loyalists on an oil facility and other sites controlled by the rebels, and the fact that the colonel himself is still in hiding.“Even though they are proclaiming victory in Tripoli and throughout the country, resistance is still very strong. They’ve not been able to track down Colonel Gaddafi. He has been giving regular speeches through Syrian television calling upon the people of Libya to stand up and resist the occupation of the NATO-led forces inside of Libya,” he said.

The NTC has been recognized as the legitimate authority by many of the UN’s member-states, including its five permanent members. Russia also recognized the new authority earlier this month.