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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid