Valletta calls for international help to deal with the soaring numbers of injured fighters.
|Clinton, centre, said the US would ‘return Libya’s frozen assets’ and provide more aid [AFP]|
The US secretary of state has pledged increased support to Libya and and praised Libyans for demonstrating “bravery and determination” in removing Muammar Gaddafi’s government.
Speaking in Tripoli on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said the US was working with Libya to “return frozen assets” and that Washington would “stay focused on security”.
“I am pleased to announce that we’re going to put even more money into helping Libya secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons and the administration, working with congress, is going to provide $40m to support this effort,” she said.
Clinton, who said she was “proud to stand on the soil of a free Libya”, added that the US would work with Libya to destroy chemical weapons stocks.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from Tripoli, said: “The US is concerned the weapons could get into wrong hands, and they want them dealt with.”
Clinton arrived in Tripoli on an unannounced visit and is the first most senior US official to come to the north African nation since Gaddafi’s 42-year rule ended in August.
Bani Walid ‘captured’
Clinton’s comments came as fighters belonging to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) claimed they had captured nearly all of Bani Walid, one of two last remaining strongholds of Gaddafi.
“We are very much in the centre of Bani Walid. They [Libyan fighters] came through here just over an hour ago and they are saying this is an almost complete liberation of the town,” Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley, reporting from inside Bani Walid, said.
The visit was marked by tight security, reflecting worries that the new rulers have yet to establish full control over the country.
“We want to expand our economic co-operation with Libya to create new educational and cultural exchanges and deepen our engagement with civil society,” she said, flanked by senior NTC officials.
“First, we’ll launch this new partnership to provide care to the wounded. It deeply moves us that so many people dropped whatever they were doing to fight for their freedom.
“We plan to evacuate some of the most seriously injured to specialised medical facilities in the US. We want to help you care for your patients here in Libya and we’ll work together to establish a modern medical management system.”
Clinton said the US was also focused on young people whom she said had “the most to gain” from the new-found freedom.
She said the Fulbright programme would be resumed and its size doubled to permit more Libyan students to study and train in the US.
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US officials said Clinton’s visit was aimed at cementing a partnership with the new government and helping it steer towards democracy.
Clinton, they added, would encourage the NTC to fulfil pledges to move swiftly towards elections.
“The important thing is to be able to show the Libyan people that there is momentum,” a senior administration official travelling with Clinton said.
The new US contribution will boost Washington’s contribution to Libya since the uprising against Gaddafi began in February to roughly $135m.
In her opening remarks, Clinton praised Libyans for fighting Gaddafi’s regime despite major obstacles.
“On behalf of the US, I congratulate all Libyans. It is a great privilege to see a new future for Libya being born,” she said.
“And, indeed, the work ahead is quite challenging, but the Libyan people have demonstrated the determination and resolve necessary to achieve their goals.
“Libyans were called rats by their own leaders and were confronted by every tactic to break their spirit. But no threats dimmed the courage of the Libyan people. The US was proud to stand with you and we’ll continue to stand with you.”