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Libya's new regime promises moderate rule; World Bank recognizes NTC

Mustafa Abdul Jalil: "We are a Muslim people for a moderate Islam"

By Agencies | Tripoli / 13 Sept 2011

The World Bank said it recognizes the National Transitional Council as Libya’s official government, after the new regime promised moderate Islamic rule and to investigate alleged war crimes.

Explaining its decision was based on “evolving events in Libya and the views of member countries,” the bank pledged a major rebuilding role.

The move came as the NTC sought the surrender of Qaddafi diehards who have been mounting attacks against its fighters from a few enclaves including Bani Walid, southeast of Tripoli.

Muammar Qaddafi, wanted for alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, remains in hiding but many of his inner circle and one of his sons have fled to Niger.

But the pro-NTC forces who brought down the Qaddafi regime found themselves on Tuesday also accused of committing war crimes by Amnesty International.

Amnesty said in the first days of the uprising groups of protesters killed a number of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries.

But Amnesty acknowledged the atrocities allegedly committed by the now governing opposition were of a “smaller scale” than those carried out by Qaddafi’s regime.

The NTC responded by vowing to investigate the allegations, while acknowledging “there are a small number of incidents involving those opposed to Qaddafi.”

In a statement issued in Benghazi, the council’s executive committee said “the NTC is firmly committed to human rights and the rule of law, both international and local”.

In his first public speech since arriving in Tripoli on Saturday, Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told thousands of supporters in Martyrs’ Square that moderate Islam would be Libya’s main source of legislation.

“We seek a state of law, prosperity and one where Shariah is the main source for legislation, and this requires many things and conditions,” he said, adding that “extremist ideology” would not be tolerated.

NTC officials said they did not advertize the public appearance for fear pro-Qaddafi elements would try to disrupt it.

“The most important thing was what he said about building a nation of laws, and his reassurances about extremism, from the left or the right, Islamists or secularists,” Osama Gheriani, a 30-year-old dentist, said.

“It’s a moderate country. This was the most important point.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s airline resumed flights to Benghazi on Tuesday and the head of Jordan’s flagship airline said Royal Jordanian will restart daily service there on Thursday. Hussein Dabbas said flights to Tripoli may resume later this month.

Earlier, Qaddafi vowed to defeat those behind the “coup” that ousted him.

“It is not possible to give Libya to the colonialists again,” he said in a statement read out on Syria-based Arrai Oruba television. “All that remains for us is the struggle until victory and the defeat of the coup.”

On the economic front, the International Energy Agency said Libya could recover a quarter of its oil production by the end of 2011, and two-thirds by end-2012, adding a return to full output of about 1.6 million barrels a day could take two to three years.

And Canada said it has freed up $2.2 billion dollars of Libyan assets frozen in its banks as it renewed ties with the North African country.

The World Bank’s recognition of the NTC came a day after China, which had long helped prop up Qaddafi before the uprising broke out, became the last permanent member of the UN Security Council to do so.

But South African President Jacob Zuma said Tuesday the African Union still does not recognize Libya’s new leaders, on the eve of a regional meeting in Pretoria on the latest developments in the conflict.

Also Tuesday, Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin Group said it would still monitor the situation before returning to work on its Libyan projects, which include a prison, a water pipeline and an airport.

SNC Lavalin spokeswoman Claudia Martin said the company does plan to go back to Libya but was looking into security.

“We are pleased and encouraged to hear that the government of Canada has lifted its sanctions for resuming business in Libya. This is positive news and as we have always maintained, once the situation is stabilized, it is our intention to return to this country,” she said.

“We look forward to continuing the projects that were already underway, but before proceeding, we must be 100 percent certain that the situation is stable and secure from the perspective of the safety of our people.

Suncor Energy said last week that it was confident it would return to Libya but the timing was unclear.

On the battlefield, fighters of Libya’s new rulers brandished new weapons outside Bani Walid, where residents were fleeing fearing clashes with Qaddafi forces.

Talks were underway through mediators for the surrender of Qaddafi diehards but “so far there is no result,” said Abdullah Kenshil, the NTC’s chief negotiator.

“They want to continue to fight and yesterday they bombed residential areas,” he said.

Kenshil, citing fleeing residents, said the humanitarian situation in Bani Walid was difficult, with shortages of water, electricity and commodities.

The NTC assault to “liberate” the desert town, 180km southeast of Tripoli, has been stalled for three days, following the expiry of a deadline set for Qaddafi loyalists to surrender.

The area was calm on Tuesday, save for intermittent exchanges of fire and the sound of NATO warplanes flying overhead.

On Monday, Qaddafi loyalists had also launched ferocious counterattacks on the oil refinery town of Ras Lanuf in the east and on the road toward Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.

NATO said Tuesday its warplanes had hit a radar system, eight surface to air missile systems, five surface to air missile trailers, an armed vehicle and two air defense command vehicles.

Monday’s unexpected counter-offensive by Qaddafi loyalists came despite the flight to Niger of 32 members of his inner circle, including his son Saadi.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Niger was preparing to “detain” Saadi.

But NATO said it does not know whether Qaddafi senior is still in Libya.

“To be frank we don’t know if he has left the country,” NATO spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie said from the operation’s headquarters in Naples, Italy.

“He has not made public appearances in the country for a while and this raises questions about his whereabouts. But we don’t have sure information about where he is at this time,” he said.

In other developments, the Obama administration is warning of growing religious intolerance and violence in Arab nations undergoing popular revolts.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the overthrow of autocratic leaders in the Middle East and North Africa was inspiring but had also exposed religious and ethnic minorities to new dangers that threaten democratic transitions. She urged the people of the region not to “trade one form of repression for another.”

The US has publicly expressed concern about the post-revolt treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Egypt and Libya as well as current sectarian violence in Syria.


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