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Clinton: Libyan rebels must secure Gadhafi weapons
Question of the Day
PARIS (AP) — Libyan rebels on the verge of driving Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power must secure weapons caches amassed by his regime and ensure they are not used to threaten the country’s neighbors, the region or beyond, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary RodhamClinton said Thursday. She also said the fight against the still-defiant Col. Gadhafi must continue.
“We must see our military mission through to its conclusion,” she said of the NATO operation to protect civilians that began in March. “Coalition military operations should continue as long as civilians remain under threat of attack,” Mrs. Clinton said at an international conference in Paris to rally financial and other support for the rebels and the government they are trying to install.
The session fell on the 42nd anniversary of the coup in which Col. Gadhafi seized power. He warned from hiding Thursday that tribes loyal to him were well-armed and preparing for battle, hours after rebels hoping for a peaceful surrender extended the deadline for loyalist forces to give up in the longtime Libyan leader’s hometown.
“We won’t surrender again; we are not women. We will keep fighting,” Col. Gadhafi said. His voice was recognizable, and Al-Rai previously has broadcast several statements by Col. Gadhafi and his sons.
Mrs. Clinton said Col. Gadhafi and his remaining loyalists should concede defeat for the sake of the Libyan people and stressed it was imperative that Libya’s new leaders ensure that Gadhafi-era stockpiles, including of mustard agent and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft devices, are safe.
She called on the opposition to protect the rights of all Libyans, particularly women and minorities, as it moves to consolidate its authority. She also urged other nations to assist opposition efforts to forge a democratic transition after four decades of autocratic rule.
“Libya’s new leadership will need to continue to stand against violent extremism and work with us to ensure that weapons from Gadhafi’s stockpiles do not threaten Libya’s neighbors and the world,” Mrs. Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery at the conference that were released by the State Department.
“We will be watching and supporting Libya’s leaders as they keep their stated commitments to conduct an inclusive transition, act under the rule of law and protect vulnerable populations — and that should include enshrining the rights of women as well as men in their constitution,” she said. “Honoring these principles offers Libya its best chance at a stable, successful future.”
Mrs. Clinton appealed for the countries around the world to follow the lead of the U.S. and Europe by recognizing the opposition National Transitional Council as Libya’s legitimate government and give it the Libyan seat at the annual U.N. General Assembly session later this month. The United Nations also should authorize a mission to Libya should the rebels ask for one, she said.
“We should work to see that the new leadership assumes Libya’s seat at the United Nations,” she said. Russia, long a holdout, recognized the rebels' council earlier Thursday. Mrs. Clinton said the U.N. should allow countries to release tens of billions of dollars in frozen Gadhafi regime assets to the NTC and said the U.S. has completed the transfer of $700 million in such assets on behalf of the rebels.
That amount is slightly less than half of the $1.5 billion in frozen assets that the U.S. won agreement from the U.N. to release last week. Mrs. Clinton said the remainder would be released soon. The $1.5 billion represents about half of the Gadhafi regime’s liquid assets that have been frozen in the United States. The rest of the more than $30 billion in frozen assets is in real estate and other noncash holdings.
“Notably, for the first time in over four decades, the wealth of our nation’s resources will be used for the benefit of all of the Libyan people,” he said.
European nations are seeking the release of billions more in frozen assets that they hold.
By Matt Kibbe
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