Obama meets interim Libyan leader

2011-09-20 20:03
New York - US President Barack Obama on Tuesday met Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil for the first time, and said the world would stand with his liberated country as it solidifies its freedom.

The president met the leader of the National Transitional Council on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, ahead of talks between the United States and its allies on Libya's future.

In the international meeting, Obama called on those fighters still supporting ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi to lay down their arms, warning that the Nato mission in the country would continue.

With the new Libyan flag flying over the United Nations building in New York, Obama also announced the return of the US ambassador to Tripoli and that the US flag would be raised again over a reopened American embassy.

"Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation. After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant," he told the meeting, also attended by the country's interim leaders.

Credit for the "liberation of Libya, belongs to the people of Libya," he insisted, but stressed the international community was not pulling out yet.

"Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one," he said.

"Important, too, is how this effort succeeded - thanks to the leadership and contributions of many nations. The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the first days, and then in a supporting capacity."

Arab League and Nato

"This is how the international community should work in the 21st century."

But Obama said it was an international effort, paying tribute to the Arab League and to Nato, which led a military coalition of nearly 20 countries.

"So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the Nato-led mission to protect them will continue. And those still holding out must understand - the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya."

And Obama warned the focus should also now turn to a democratic transition that is "peaceful, inclusive and just" after four decades of one-man rule.

"We all know what's needed. A transition that is timely. New laws and a constitution that uphold the rule of law. Political parties and a strong civil society. And, for the first time in Libyan history, free and fair elections."

"True democracy, however, must flow from its citizens," Obama said, adding that those who sought justice for the crimes of the past should do it in a spirit of reconciliation not recrimination.

"To the Libyan people: this is your chance," Obama said. "And today the world is saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise; as you reach for the freedom, the dignity and the opportunity you deserve."

At least 25 000 people died in the uprising against Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi and 50 000 were wounded, the interim Libyan leader told a UN summit on Tuesday thanking the international community for its assistance.

National Transitional Council chair Mustafa Abdel Jalil told the summit that Gaddafi's regime members would face justice but vowed that they would get "a fair trial".

Read more on:    un  |  barrack obama  |  mustafa abdel jalil  |  us  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa

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