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Global Viewpoint

Economic future for Libya brighter than in Tunisia, Egypt

Libya has immense petroleum wealth, a small population, and an ability to attract foreign investment. But the international community must see that Libya's interim Transitional National Council follows its 'road map' to an accountable and transparent new government.

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Coincidentally, the fall of Tripoli may have happened at a fortuitous time for the council, as a cabinet shuffle was initiated after the killing of former council military commander Gen. Abdel Fateh Younis on July 28. The council should quickly issue a public statement that when a modicum of order is restored throughout the country, it will appoint a new cabinet with more than half of its cabinet level positions awarded to members hailing from the newly liberated parts of Libya. This will ensure due representation for the Tripolitania region, which contains 70 percent of Libya’s population.

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As indicated by the road map, the transitional council is committed to a “Truth and Reconciliation”-style commission based on the South African model and has promised to include in the new government former Qaddafi officials not involved in perpetration of crimes against humanity. This commitment to no “de-baathification” is essential to getting Libya’s economy running in the medium term and quickly restoring basic services to Libyan citizens in the short term.

Failure to utilize the institutions, technocrats, and policemen who served in the previous regime would impede the council’s efforts to keep the inhabitants of western Libya fed while preventing a prolonged political vacuum which leads to looting and chaos.

However, the most important factor limiting the ability of the transitional council to provide basic services remains access to frozen Libyan assets abroad. In this quest, the international community must act decisively in accordance with the decisions of the recent meeting of the 30-member Libya contact group by swiftly passing the newly proposed UN Security Council resolution to that effect.

The United States has quite correctly asked the transitional council to indicate its needs in order to determine how America can play a supporting role to the UN and the international community in helping Libyans get the electricity on and schools reopened. It is important for the US, Britain, and others in the European Union to support rather than dictate, and to have the larger stabilization efforts directed via the UN.

Dr. Jibril’s optimistic and promising outlook of “one country, one people, one history and one future with one capital (Tripoli)” is shared by many, if not most, Libyans. The prospects for a transition to a democratic and prosperous Libya are better than most commentators acknowledge.

However, implementing the transitional council’s road map and transitioning power to an elected government will require that the mutual suspicions between Libyans and with the international community – sown by decades of Qaddafi’s misrule – be rapidly replaced by networks of trust and collaboration.

Jason Pack researches Libyan History at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge University. Katherine F. White is a former personal assistant to the Libyan ambassador to the United States, Ali S. Aujali.

© 2011 Global Viewpoint Network/Tribune Media Services. Hosted online by The Christian Science Monitor.

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