News / Middle East

US Defense Chief Makes Historic Visit to Libya

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta greets members of the Libyan delegation on the tarmac during his arrival in Tripoli, Saturday, Dec., 17, 2011.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta greets members of the Libyan delegation on the tarmac during his arrival in Tripoli, Saturday, Dec., 17, 2011.
Luis Ramirez

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has made a historic visit to a newly liberated Libya, where he has offered U.S. support as the country's transitional leaders struggle to create a cohesive democratic society. 

It was the first visit to Libya by a U.S. defense secretary, and was symbolic of a new era in relations between Washington and a nation that was once one of its main enemies.

Panetta's motorcade sped past buildings riddled with bullet holes and the bombed-out complex that was once the headquarters of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi, scars of an eight-month civil war.

Along the way, a spontaneous welcome from Tripoli residents. People flashed victory signs and graffiti on walls had messages of thanks for the United States and its allies.  

Panetta went straight into meetings with Libya's transitional leaders, including the interim prime minister, and told them Washington wants to help them build a new, democratic society.

“I believe that this new and free Libya can become an important security partner for the United States," he said. "Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. They will chart their future. They will determine what assistance they require from the United States and the international community."

The United States and NATO assisted revolutionary forces with air support and intelligence during the eight month civil war that toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi.  Now Washington is offering a different kind of assistance - on the ground.

The United States on Friday announced the lifting of most of the sanctions it imposed during the Gadhafi rule, a move Panetta said is aimed at helping the new government get started.

“This measure will allow the Libyan government to access most of its worldwide holdings, and assist the prime minister in his efforts to oversee the country's reconstruction and transition."

Under the U.S. action, assets under U.S. jurisdiction that are owned by the Gadhafi family or members of the late leader's inner circle remain frozen.

Panetta told Libyan leaders the United States stands ready to offer security assistance to them.  He said there was no discussion of weapons sales.

In a sign of the challenges the new government is facing, demonstrators protested outside the prime minister's office as he met with Panetta. They said they have not been payed their wages for months.

The defense chief's visit comes as outbreaks of violence trigger doubts on whether Libya is ready to transition to a stable democracy.  A recent gunbattle near the Tripoli airport between revolutionary forces and militias highlighted the difficulties that Libya's interim leaders are having in forming key institutions like the army.

Still, Panetta expressed optimism that the courage and heroism of those who fought Gadhafi would drive Libya into a better future.

Later, he went to a cemetery on Tripoli's waterfront and laid a wreath at the burial place of 13 U.S. sailors killed during the time of Barbary wars, at the start of the 19th century.    

The visit to Libya culminated a tour of the region that included Djibouti, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey. In Iraq, Panetta attended an event marking the formal end of the U.S. war in that country and paid tribute to the more than 4,000 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in the conflict.


 

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid