Sarkozy, Cameron visit Libya for victory lap, pep talk
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British premier David Cameron secured crucial NATO backing of the rebels. Now they want to help the new Libya become a model for other Arab nations.
Libya's revolution may still be incomplete, but Western leaders are swooping into Tripoli to celebrate the rebels' victory and offer support for the new Libya, whose success they see model for other Arab revolutions.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Following Qaddafi's fashion
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With sharpshooters on Tripoli rooftops, a 5-star hotel sealed by tight security, and fighting continuing less than 100 miles away, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron were today the first heads of state to arrive in the capital and embrace Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC).
The backing of Britain and France, which led NATO's military charge, was crucial to turning the tide for Libya's rebels – at first little more than rag-tag militias – and enabling them to oust the Qaddafi regime.
But drawing on the lessons of the Iraq war, the Western leaders took pains today – as they have before – to emphasize Libyans' ownership of the revolution, with France and Britain playing the role of supporting actor.
“What we are building [not only] applies to Libya, but all Arab people throughout the world who want to liberate themselves from their chains,” said Mr. Sarkozy at a press conference in Tripoli. “France and Europe will be at their side, for peace, for democracy, and for economic progress…. This message applies to the 21st century, it is the sense of history that works towards reconciliation and not toward war.”
The French and British leaders were greeted with effusive praise from NTC leaders for intervening on a “purely humanitarian basis” to stop the former regime's “genocide” against the Libyan people.
“Our hero revolutionaries wouldn’t have made these achievements without the support of the allies, chiefly France and the United Kingdom,” said NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
“The Libyan people, a defiant people who are making history liberating their homeland, [give their] gratitude,” said acting premier Mahmoud Jibril. “This will, from now on, be a turning point in the history of the relations of the states … based on mutual freedom, mutual interests, and mutual respect.”
Avoiding the pitfalls of Iraq
Libya’s new leaders have frequently stated their wish to avoid the pitfalls that befell Iraq after the US invasion in 2003 sparked a civil war and insurgency. These leaders were quick to note that Libya’s revolution was homegrown, and not a foreign occupation.