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Libya to Europe: Remember us?

Former Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril traveled to Brussels to warn European leaders about the dangers of abandoning their work in Libya before the country is stabilized. 

By Staff writer / March 29, 2012

Former Libyan premier Mahmoud Jibril speaks during a news conference in Benghazi in this 2011 file photo

Esam Al-Fetori/REUTERS/File

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Former Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said at a European conference that his struggling nation feels practically “abandoned” by Europe – where attention is focused on Syria – and that the youth who brought the 2011 revolution are “being completely left out of the picture” ahead of elections in June.

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It is a “tragic mistake … a fatal mistake” to abandon Libya at this time, said the former leader of the Transitional National Council. “Libya is in a political and security vacuum, and vacuums do not remain vacuums. Extremism might spread at any moment,” Mr. Jibril warned. “I am afraid that early indicators are there right now.”

More than a year after France and Britain spearheaded air strikes in Libya and seven months after the fall of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Jibril traveled to Brussels for the German Marshall Fund's annual forum to deliver some harsh words. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was present, disagreed that Libya had been forgotten.

Libya has not regained stability in the months since Qaddafi was ousted. The east is fraught with competing militias, and calls for partition between the east and west have left the political system in limbo. United Nations humanitarian advisers have been deployed, but only in an aid capacity, not as peacekeepers – even as politicians such as Jibril, who has started his own political party, are forced to move their Tripoli offices daily for security purposes. Outside urban areas, there are frequent reports of gang killings, retribution, and torture.

"The Libyan revolution is in serious jeopardy,” agrees Karim Emile Bitar, senior fellow at the Institute for International and Strategic Affairs in Paris. “Qaddafi left many booby traps. Government institutions are still embryonic, civil society is disempowered, and Libya is in dire need of a stronger central political authority that would rein in the militias, collect the weapons, and prevent atomization.”

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