New Libyan leaders 'owe' France

Paris - France will seek a leading role in post-war Libya, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said on Friday, arguing that Libya's new leaders "owe" Paris for leading the campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

Speaking in an interview to Le Monde on the day after Libya's ousted strongman was captured and killed, Longuet said France is poised to take advantage of its leading role after a successful campaign.

France "will strive to play the role of a principal partner in the country where the leaders know they owe us a lot".

"Everyone will throw their hat into the ring. We will neither be the last nor the most blatant," he said of Libya's relations with various Western countries in the coalition.

"Our involvement was not belated, mediocre or uncertain. And we have nothing to be ashamed of."

Longuet said earlier that French planes had spotted Gaddafi’s convoy fleeing Sirte on Thursday, though clarifying that it was the NTC forces that ultimately destroyed the vehicles along with the former dictator.

Libya, which produced 1.6 to 1.7 million barrels of oil daily before the conflict, is a coveted market for many countries that are also eyeing potentially massive contracts for rebuilding its infrastructure.

French and British forces spearheaded the air campaign against Gaddafi’s forces by the Nato military alliance, which has carried out nearly 1 000 strike sorties since March 31.

The campaign will now be "phased out" in the coming "days or weeks" and Libya's NTC will be able to announce the new government, Longuet said.

"[The NTC] is now pushed into the difficult stage of establishing a stable political system," he said.

He said the campaign owed its success to France, which "used the political weight of its agreement with Britain ... to win a UN Security Council resolution and then hand the command over to Nato."

"The political setup and military readiness were the conditions for success," he said.

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