News / Africa

UN Chief in Libya, Seeks Weapons Controls

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses a meeting at United Nations headquarters, October 20, 2011 (file photo).
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses a meeting at United Nations headquarters, October 20, 2011 (file photo).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has used a previously unannounced visit to Libya to urge the country's new leaders to secure weapons stockpiled by the former Gadhafi government.

Ban says he raised the issue Wednesday during a meeting in Tripoli with Libya's transitional leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil. The secretary-general says it is particularly important to secure stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and chemical and biological weapons.

Some of those arsenals were left unguarded during the chaotic outcome of the popular uprising this year that resulted in long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi's death last month. The U.N. Security Council warned in a resolution Monday of the risk that terrorists and other armed groups in the region could gain access to the former regime's weapons.

Ban, visiting Libya for the first time since the uprising began in March, told Jalil the U.N. will support the Libyan people in their transition to democracy. He offered U.N. help to Libya in preparing for its first free elections, in drafting a new constitution and in safeguarding human rights and improving public security.

From Tripoli, the U.N. chief goes to the French city of Cannes to attend a summit of the Group of 20 economic powers.

Libya's National Transitional Council on Monday appointed Abdurrahim el-Keib as its new interim prime minister. The American-educated engineering professor said he protecting human rights will be a priority for his interim government, expected to remain in power until elections next year.

Human-rights groups have expressed concern about the NTC's treatment of pro-Gadhafi fighters and African migrants during the eight-month uprising.

In another development, Italy on Wednesday became the first EU nation to resume commercial flights to post-Gadhafi Libya. An Alitalia plane left Rome for Tripoli carrying more than 100 people, mostly Libyan citizens.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini praised the resumption of flights as an "important signal" of the depth of Italy's involvement in Libya, a former Italian colony. Italy was one of several NATO member states that took part in an aerial bombing campaign in support of the anti-Gadhafi uprising.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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