Leaders gather in Paris for Libya summit

Sixty nations and world bodies meet NTC officials at "Friends of Libya" summit to discuss country's reconstruction.

    Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the NTC chairman, will open the talks with an outline of the new government's roadmap [Reuters]

    Representatives of the Libyan rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi are sitting down with world leaders in Paris to map out the country's rebuilding, 42 years to the day after the former leader seized power in a coup.

    Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president and David Cameron, the British prime minister, whose gamble to spearhead the West's intervention in Libya paid off this week when Gaddafi was driven from power, are hosting delegations from 60 countries and world bodies.

    The leading figures taking part in the meeting are Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, and the chiefs of the United Nations, NATO and the Arab League.

    The meeting, dubbed the "Friends of Libya Conference", is being held in the French capital.

    The event's three-hour agenda will focus on political and economic reconstruction, with Western powers anxious to avoid mistakes made in post-war Iraq.

    With Gaddafi driven from power, the conference will give the ruling interim council its first platform to address the world.

    The summit is looking to free up billions in frozen Libyan assets worldwide to help the newly dominant opposition, and to reconcile diplomatic differences over the NATO-led airstrike campaign that helped oust Gaddafi.

    Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transition Council (NTC), will open the talks with an outline of the council's roadmap, which includes a new constitution, elections within 18 months and ways to avoid reprisals.

    He will later address an evening news conference along with Sarkozy and Cameron.

    'Jostling for contracts'

    Reporting from Paris, Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull points out that the delegations attending the meeting are also there to protect their own interests.

    "Of course, the undercurrent is very much about countries jostling for very lucrative contracts for the rebuilding of Libya and also its enormous energy sector,"  he said.

    "The NTC has promised that those countries that gave it the most support will take significant rewards. That should put France and the United Kingdom, perhaps the United States as well, at the top of the queue."

    The US secretary of state urged Libya's interim leaders on Thursday to seek reconciliation not retribution after their victory over Gaddafi and pledged support for the transition to democracy.

    Clinton said NATO's military campaign should continue as long as civilians are under threat, but said UN sanctions should be lifted in a responsible way and the new leaders should be given Libya's UN seat.

    "The work does not end with the end of an oppressive regime," she said.

    "Winning a war offers no guarantee of winning the peace that follows. What happens in the coming days will be critical."

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, who is also attending the meeting, said the UN is ready to lead an international mission to help get the country back on its feet.

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

    Russia and China, which opposed NATO's intervention in Libya, will also be represented. Russia joined nearly 60 other countries in formally recognising the NTC as Libya's ruling government on Thursday.

    Of the major powers, only African Union heavyweight South Africa continued to snub the NTC. Jacob Zuma, the South African president, boycotted the talks and said his country was "not happy" with NATO's decision to bomb Gaddafi's forces.

    Netherlands to unfreeze $2bn

    Meanwhile, the Dutch government has said it was ready to unlock $2bn in frozen Libyan assets to help the new interim government in Tripoli put its economy afloat.

    "We want to unlock two billion dollars which were frozen," Henk Brons, a spokesman for prime minister Mark Rutte, told AFP.

    Brons said the money would be released from a total amount of around $4.4bn in assets which had been frozen by the Dutch government in line with EU sanctions against Gaddafi regime.

    The meeting is the first international gathering for the NTC after it took control of most of Libya including the capital, Tripoli, and began against the backdrop of a new Gaddafi message.

    The toppled leader urged his supporters on Thursday to keep up their resistance to the uprising in Libya, the Syria-based Al-Rai television channel said.

    Gaddafi asked his supporters to continue what he called "struggle against foreign aggression" and said those against him were divided, he was quoted as saying in a message.

    He vowed again not to surrender, saying he would carry on fighting, the pro-Gaddafi television channel said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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