At UN, Libya's new leaders seek support to thwart terrorist threat

Libya’s interim government says capturing Qaddafi is a matter of security and stability not just for Libya, but for the region and beyond.

Seth Wenig/AP
Mahmood Jibril, chairman of Libya's Transitional National Council executive board, speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters Monday.

Libya’s interim government may be this year’s darling of the international community, reaping praise from world leaders, including President Obama, at the United Nations’ annual gathering in New York.

But Libya’s new leaders say they are not getting the support of key African countries for their efforts to stabilize their country. Indeed, they worry that some African leaders in Zimbabwe, Algeria, and elsewhere still root for the deposed Muammar Qaddafi, who is on the run but still issuing defiant statements of resistance.

“Libya will need support from the international community to put pressure on those African countries who still support Qaddafi and benefit from his money,” said Mahmoud Nacua, charge d’affaires at the Libyan embassy in London, in an interview Tuesday with Reuters. “The international community has a vital role to stop any sabotage from Qaddafi and his sons and his supporters.”

Libyan leaders say that their country’s revolution is at risk and strides towards democracy will be halting until Qaddafi is captured and any forms of support he is receiving from outside the country – including moral – are stopped.

“This is no exaggeration to say that even beyond the African continent, Qaddafi with the means that he has, could return to his terrorist practices by providing arms across the continent ... that his absence from the political stage would be synonymous with the expansion of Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations,” said Mahmoud Jibril, interim prime minister and head of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), in a UN Security Council appearance Monday.

Diplomats at the UN in New York say Libya’s new leadership is taking the same message to meetings with world leaders on the margins of the UN General Assembly’s annual opening session which began last week.

Mr. Jibril met in New York with President Obama last week before a high-level meeting on Libya. He and other TNC members met with a long line of international leaders before Mr. Jibril addressed the General Assembly on Saturday and then met with the Security Council on Monday.

Evidence of the lingering support for Qaddafi came from Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who on Sunday accused African countries that recognize the TNC as Libya’s legitimate government of being “sellouts.”

Libya’s new leaders have also had rocky relations with next-door neighbor Algeria, in part over the role Islamists would play in a new Libya.

Algiers miffed the TNC leadership when it allowed one of Qaddafi’s daughters and other family members to flee into Algeria. Algerian officials said the move a humanitarian gesture because the daughter is pregnant.

But since entering Algeria members of the Qaddafi group have given repeated media interviews, prompting the Algerian government this week to threaten deportation if they do not stop.

In his meetings with leaders of the international community, Jibril has stressed that capturing Qaddafi and draining his remaining reservoirs of support is a matter of security and stability not just for Libya, but for the region and beyond.

Noting that Qaddafi stockpiled large quantities of arms including chemical weapons, Jibril emphasized the need for help from the international community in tackling the Qaddafi threat.

Some UN officials second Jibril’s concerns, at least the urgent need to secure Libya’s weaponry.

“The spread of these weapons and the danger they could fall into the hands of terrorists are matters of grave concern,” said Lynn Pascoe, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political affairs, at Monday’s Security Council meeting.

“Reestablishing control over chemical weapons material is of paramount importance.”

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