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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid