‘A FREE LIBYA’
The ambassador who long represented Moammar Gadhafi and strongly defended the Libyan dictator reopened the Libyan Embassy this week as the envoy of the rebel provisional government, proclaiming a new democratic Libya.
“For the first time in 42 years, this embassy represents a free Libya,” Ambassador Ali Suleiman Aujali declared Wednesday, surrounded by cheering Libyan-Americans waving the nation’s old tricolored flag that replaced Col. Gadhafi’s solid green banner.
Mr. Aujali’s diplomatic evolution from envoy for Col. Gadhafi to ambassador for the rebels occurred rapidly. He arrived in Washington in 2004 as head of the Libya Interests Section and was appointed ambassador a year later.
He resigned in February to protest Libya’s crackdown on what began as peaceful demonstrations. Mr. Aujali was reaccredited as the ambassador for the provisional government in August, about a month after President Obama gave diplomatic recognition to the rebel council.
Mr.. Aujali joined the Libyan foreign service in 1971, about two years after Col. Gadhafi overthrew King Idris. He served as Libya’s ambassador to Argentina in 1984 and to Brazil in 1988. He was also the head of the diplomatic mission to Canada in 2001.
At the reopening of the embassy at 2600 Virginia Ave. NW, Mr.. Aujali urged the United States to release about $13 million in the embassy’s bank account and $30 billion in other Libyan assets frozen by U.S. sanctions on Col. Gadhafi.
“I am hopeful that the United States government will soon move forward with releasing the frozen assets in the U.S. that belong to the Libyan people,” he said.
Mr.. Aujali also praised Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hilllary Rodham Clinton for U.S. support in the air war against Col. Gadhafi and for diplomatic pressure on the regime.
“The Libyan people … will be forever grateful to the United States for coming to their aid in their greatest time of need and for ensuring that the dream for a free Libya was not executed by Gadhafi’s forces,” he said.
The U.S. diplomatic recognition of the rebel government and the reopening of the embassy “send a strong message to the Gadhafi regime,” he added.
“It lacks legitimacy, and its days are numbered.”
‘POWER TO CHANGE’
The U.S. ambassador to Nigeria this week urged graduating students at American University to transform the West African nation from a country synonymous with corruption to one that is free and truly democratic.