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Clinton: Libyan rebels must secure Gadhafi weapons
Question of the Day
Mrs. Clinton cautioned that “winning a war offers no guarantee of winning the peace that follows” and said the opposition needed to follow through on commitments to uphold international standards and usher in an era of inclusive, transparent and sustainable democracy.
Once the fight to oust Col. Gadhafi is over, she said, the international community should help the rebels demobilize and integrate their fighters into a single security force.
In a private meeting with council leaders Mustafa Abdul-Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril, Mrs. Clinton said the safety of the Gadhafi weapons stockpiles was “an urgent security priority facing Libya and the broader region,” according to a senior U.S. official present for the discussion. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door diplomatic exchange.
Mrs. Clinton also told the Libyan opposition leaders that they must deal with the case of the only person convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and that the U.S. will be watching closely how they handle it.
Mrs. Clinton said that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi’s release from a Scottish prison and the current status of the former Libyan intelligence officer are of deep concern to the Obama administration, two senior U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private diplomatic exchange.
The officials said Mrs. Clinton made clear to the opposition leaders that the U.S. believes al-Megrahi never should have been freed from prison and that his return to a hero’s welcome in Col. Gadhafi’s Libya remains problematic.
The ailing al-Megrahi was released two years ago on compassionate grounds, eight years into a life sentence, after doctors predicted he would die of prostate cancer within three months.
An ardent Gadhafi supporter, he is now reported to be near death at his home in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Al-Megrahi’s presence in Libya has led some members of the U.S. Congress to demand his extradition or jailing, particularly since rebels drove Col. Gadhafi from power last month and are now on the verge of taking full control of the country.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has asked Mrs. Clinton to make the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets from the Gadhafi government contingent on al-Megrahi’s return to jail.
The State Department said Wednesday that Mrs. Clinton would press the opposition on the case but would not link it to the assets, given the immediate priorities such as securing and stabilizing Libya.
The U.S. officials said Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Jalil and Mr. Jibril that they would have to “grapple” with the al-Megrahi matter and look for a “just and appropriate response” to American concerns.
The officials said the Libyans were expecting Mrs. Clinton to raise the matter and understood how much importance Washington attaches to it. The officials would not say if Mrs. Clinton demanded specific actions from the Libyans.
The December 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 270 people, most of them Americans.
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