President Barack Obama Tuesday pledged U.S. support for the new Libyan government and appealed to Moammar Gadhafi loyalists still fighting the transitional administration to lay down their arms and “join the new Libya.” At the United Nations meeting on Libya's future, interim Libyan leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil called for reconciliation in rebuilding the country.
The 60-nation high-level “Friends of Libya” meeting amounted to a victory celebration for the interim government which won official recognition from the U.N. General Assembly less than a week ago.
But the joy was tempered somewhat by continued statements of defiance from ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi and his supporters, who still control a swath of Libyan territory. The New York event included calls from President Obama and others for the holdouts to give up the fight.
Mr. Obama said the United States will stand by Libya’s National Transitional Council, the NTC, as it hopes to build a democratic state and said the NATO-led air mission will continue as long as the Libyan people are threatened. He said Mr. Gadhafi's loyalists should accept defeat.
“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. As this happens, the world must also support efforts to secure dangerous weapons - conventional and otherwise - and bring fighters under central, civilian control. For without security, democracy, trade and investment cannot flourish,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, who left the country late last year amid worsening ties with Mr. Gadhafi's government, is returning to Tripoli and that the American flag will be raised again at the war-damaged U.S. embassy in the capital.
Before the meeting, a Syrian television outlet released an audio tape in which Mr. Gadhafi, still at large, pledged to fight on.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said "time is up" for Mr. Gadhafi and his remaining supporters and warned nations against giving him refuge. “As for Gadhafi himself, he must be brought to justice under Libyan and international law. No country should consider giving a bolt-hole to this fugitive from justice, a man wanted on charges of crimes against humanity. And any country that does consider giving him sanctuary should remember there is no expiry date for the charges he faces,” Hague said.
NTC leader Jalil expressed gratitude to the United States, NATO, the Arab League and others who came to the aid of the Libyan uprising.
He said the NTC intends to govern in a spirit of reconciliation. “The Libyan authorities will bring to justice all accused of the Gadhafi regime before a just trial. And we will work for the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation over the coming period. We have already established committees for that purpose that have traveled to different parts of Libya to start a process of reconciliation that will include all the elements of the Libyan people after total liberation is realized,” Jalil said.
Jalil said migrant workers and foreigners living in Libya will be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law, though the NTC intends to “put an end” to inflows of illegal workers.
Human rights groups have complained that sub-Saharan Africans and dark-skinned Libyans have been subjected to abuse as suspected mercenaries for Mr. Gadhafi's government.
U.S. officials said human rights was among issues covered in a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Jalil in advance of the Friends of Libya meeting Tuesday.