Clinton, foreign ministers meet in London to discuss Libya
LONDON — As fighting continued to rage between rebels and Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya, world leaders gathered Tuesday for a summit on the country’s future said much work will remain for the international community after the dictator is removed from power.
Outside of reaffirming support for the Libyan people, international leaders established a group that will coordinate global efforts to Libya. The “Libya Contact Group” will meet to provide leadership and overall political direction to the international effort there.
Throughout a day of press conferences and issued statements, world leaders spoke of Gadhafi’s downfall as an inevitability even in the face of his recalcitrance and unpredictability.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that once fighting is done, the world will need to “put right” the damage Gadhafi has inflicted on Libya during the fighting.
While the world can provide humanitarian aid and other assistance, the political fate of a new Libya will be up to Libyans, Cameron said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Tuesday that “dramatic changes” are on the way, less than two weeks after U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 was passed, authorizing use of force to protect Libyan civilians from the Gadhafi regime.
Neither the Libyan government nor the region in general has built the pillars of a civil society, he said, and this will require extensive international aid in job creation, institution building and various reforms.
More than 40 foreign ministers gathered in London, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as representatives from the African Union and the Arab League.
Beyond military efforts, the international community must also provide humanitarian assistance, continue to “sharpen the choice” for hard-core Gadhafi loyalists and support the Libyans in forging a new political society, Clinton said.
“Long-term progress in Libya will not be accomplished through military means,” Clinton said.
On the humanitarian front, coalition action has allowed more aid to reach rebel-held areas, she said, noting that the U.N. World Food Programme reached the rebel stronghold of Benghazi over the weekend with 18 tons of food and blankets.
Military action against Gadhafi will continue until he ceases civilian attacks, pulls troops back and allows key services to reach all Libyans, Clinton said.
Cameron said he had received reports Tuesday morning that the contested city of Misrata is under attack by Gadhafi forces “from both land and sea,” adding that Gadhafi has deployed snipers and cut off food, water and electricity to the city. He is also harassing humanitarian ships trying to get into the port, Cameron said.
To that end, a U.S. Navy P-3C Maritime Patrol aircraft, an Air Force A-10 and the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry engaged a Libyan coast guard vessel and two smaller craft after confirmed reports that they were firing indiscriminately at merchant vessels in the port of Misrata on Monday evening, according to the military.
Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague met Tuesday morning with Mahmoud Jibril, special envoy for Libya’s Interim National Council, based in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Jibril was in London but not attending the main conference.
The British Foreign Office also sent a statement Tuesday from Libya’s now formally named Interim National Council, which outlined its goals “following the defeat of the illegal Gaddafi regime.”
Emphasizing that it has learned from Libya’s bloody and authoritarian past, the council promised to represent “the free will of the people, without exclusion or suppression of any voice.”
During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, council spokesmen emphasized the transitional nature of the rebel leadership, which they said would only remain in place until Libyans draft and vote on a new constitution via national referendum.
El-Gamaty said the council’s leadership is largely Western-educated and picked from across the country, even as some members’ identities are being kept secret since they reside in areas held by Gadhafi forces.
The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. will soon send diplomat Chris Stevens to Benghazi to meet with rebel leaders.
NATO is slated to take the lead of Operation Odyssey Dawn on Wednesday, but it remains unclear how that will change the nature of the daily bombardment of Gadhafi’s forces, an attack dominated by U.S. air and sea power.
Italy is working to broker a cease-fire in Libya, involving asylum for Gadhafi in another African country, The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday.
El-Gamaty dismissed exile for the Libyan leader.
The council wants “to hold Gadhafi accountable for his crimes,” he said.
“That’s something Gadhafi has never offered his opponents in the last 42 years.”