Contact group to discuss aid to rebel council


INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE:THE LIBYAN contact group is set to meet in Istanbul tomorrow to discuss assistance to the country’s National Transitional Council during the post-Gadafy era.

The agenda of the gathering, which will include officials from Nato, the EU and Arab League, will include the provision of finance, continuing protection of civilians, restarting essential services, and ensuring a smooth transition that would include all factions, the existing administration and security forces.

The group wants to avoid a repeat of Iraq after the removal of the Baathist regime in 2003, when the civil service was dissolved and the armed forces disbanded, precipitating anarchy and chaos.

The transitional council will urge the international community to facilitate the release of $30 billion (€20.8 billion) in frozen funds to cover immediate spending. Turkey, the conference host, says it will provide $300 million to the council to fund the new government and the transition.

French foreign minister Alain Juppé has called for a summit meeting of contact group members in Paris next week. He said the gathering could be chaired jointly by French president Nicolas Sarkozy and British prime minister David Cameron, who spearheaded the Nato mission in Libya.

UN secretary general Ban Ki- moon urged Libyans to “focus on national unity and reconciliation. This is a hopeful moment but also there are risks ahead”.

Nato ambassadors are also due to meet in Brussels to consider “options for a possible Nato role” in post-Gadafy Libya, Oona Lungescu, and organisation spokeswoman has said. Nato would not deploy troops on the ground and would be limited to a supporting role, while the UN and the contact group would take the lead.

Nato would act only “upon request” from the new Libyan government. For the present, Nato would continue to carry out its UN-mandated mission of providing protection for civilians.

Bahrain became the latest Arab country to recognise the transitional council, while Nigeria broke with the 53-member African Union to extend recognition 48 hours ahead of a meeting of the union’s high-level panel on Libya.

Ghana is also considering recognition. “Nigeria is jumping the gun in recognising the rebels as representatives of Libya,” stated Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress.

South Africa remains critical of Nato’s bombing campaign, which is seen as exceeding the UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians. President Jacob Zuma asserted: “The situation in Libya has been of concern as it has [involved] the undermining of the African continent’s role in finding a solution” to the conflict.

Meanwhile, countries with economic interests in Libya are determined to protect their investments. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said a delegation from Eni, Italy’s oil company, had arrived in Libya to assess the situation of the oil industry and decide when it could resume pumping its 1.6 million barrels a day. Italy is the chief customer for Libyan oil.

Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Wen Zhongliang called on the transitional council to ensure the safety of its investments. He was responding to comments made by an official at an oil firm captured by the rebels who said China and Russia could suffer due to their refusal to support the revolt. China has 50 mainly infrastructural projects in Libya valued at $50 billion and Libya exported 3 per cent of China’s imported crude oil during 2010.

The governments of China, Russia and the Arab and African states are deeply suspicious of Western intentions in Libya.

Their concerns have been confirmed by the gatherings of the contact group and Nato.

They contribute to the impression the Western powers are determined to secure their interests by managing the transition from the Gadafy regime to a government appointed by a parliament elected in eight months’ time.