News / Africa

Panetta Offers US Support for Libya's Transition to Democratic Rule

U.S. Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta, center, is greeted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, right, before the start of their meeting in Ankara, Turkey,  Dec., 16, 2011.
U.S. Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta, center, is greeted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, right, before the start of their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Dec., 16, 2011.
Luis Ramirez

The U.S. defense secretary heads to Libya on Saturday, becoming the first American defense chief to visit the country. Leon Panetta plans to offer Libya's interim leaders Washington's support for their efforts to transition the country to democratic rule. Our correspondent is traveling with the defense secretary and has this report from Ankara.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visits Libya months after a popular rebellion assisted by the U.S. and NATO drove out longtime ruler Muammar Qadhafi. He says he is going to get a first-hand look at the situation after the revolution and pay tribute to those who carried it out.

Libya's new leaders have been working to bring together factions and forge institutions, including an army, but that effort is proving difficult.

A recent gunbattle between army troops and members of a militia near the Tripoli airport and other violence raised questions of whether the country is able to transition to a stable democracy any time soon.

On the eve of his visit to Tripoli, Panetta told reporters in the Turkish capital he has confidence that transition will happen.

"There are going to be challenges here," said Panetta. "There are going to be difficulties, but I think any country like Libya that was able to do what they did and show the courage that they did in making the changes that took place there, I'm confident that ultimately they're going to be able to succeed in putting a democracy together."

The defense chief said Washington is ready to offer assistance to Libya's new leaders, but only if and when they request it. He cautioned against giving the appearance that the United States is trying to dictate how Libya should set up its new government.   

"The last thing you want to do is to try to impose something on a country that has just gone through what the Libyans have gone through," he said. "They have earned the right to try to determine their future.”

Panetta said a transition will take time.

"They are working through some very difficult issues to try to bring that country together. It's not going to be easy," he said. "This is tough. This is not a country that has a tradition of democratic institutions and representative government. This is going to take some work but the indications I have that they are making progress trying to bring the tribes together, trying to bring the country together in order to establish the institutions that must be put in place so that the Libyan people will have the opportunity to have elections, to have representative government. "  

Panetta's stop in Tripoli comes after he briefly stopped Baghdad briefly this week to mark the formal end to the U.S. war in Iraq.  He also visited Afghanistan, where he said the U.S. Is winning the war on extremists.   

On Friday, Panetta met with Turkish officials and discussed the need for the international community to pressure Syria's leadership to - in his words - “do the right thing” by allowing democratic change and an end to human rights abuses.

He also praised Turkey - a member of NATO - for allowing the installation of a NATO missile defense radar system on its territory.  The system, designed by the U.S., is part of a shield to guard NATO countries against a missile attack from Iran.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid