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West to Play Pivotal Role in Libya Rebuilding

NATO played a crucial role in helping Libyans to oust leader Moammar Gadhafi from power after 42 years. Now as a transitional authority takes over, Libyans are talking about recovery and rebuilding with help from the United Nations.

Libyans gave a hero's welcome to British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. They are the first Western leaders to visit Tripoli since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's government.

"In the end it was what the Libyans did themselves and I wanted to come and congratulate them and work out how we can help next," said Cameron.

Six months ago, Britain and France led the NATO no-fly zone to protect Libyan citizens. Ali Aujali, the Libyan ambassador to the U.S., says the West-backed intervention was vital.

"On 19th March, if France did not act to stop Gadhafi's troops, then Benghazi would have been the biggest cemetery in North Africa," said Aujali. "We had no choice but to ask for international help."

In August, opposition forces took over Tripoli and established their National Transitional Council (NTC) in the capital. Numerous countries now recognize the NTC as Libya's legitimate government. Hany Khallaf, an Egyptian envoy to Libya, says it is time for a shift away from Western military intervention.

"NATO should stop its attacks and military operations right away," said Khallaf. "Because the need for protecting civilians is not needed anymore."

As NATO's role winds down, the United Nations will step up. A U.N. Support Mission will focus on rebuilding Libya. Assets will be unfrozen for humanitarian aid and to allow some Libyan companies to resume business.

Hafed al-Ghwell is a Libyan opposition activist living in Washington.

"The most important part a United Nations structure can give Libya is a sense of security and stability so you don't leave the political haggling to people with guns because that's what's going to happen," said al-Ghwell.

Western countries also are looking to invest in Libya, especially in its oil, but to avoid post-war mistakes of the past.

"One lesson we've all learned is that this will be a Libyan led process and that while we each have a huge stake in its success, that we must follow the Libyan lead and help and support and not dictate a path that they should be on," said Gene Cretz, U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Libyans seem to have had enough of dictators.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.