Hague reopens British embassy in Tripoli

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The Independent Online

Foreign Secretary William Hague declared a "watershed" moment had been reached in the UK's relations with Libya yesterday as he officially reopened Britain's embassy in Tripoli.

Confirming Sir John Jenkins as the new British ambassador, Mr Hague said the embassy had an "important role to play" in building relations with the newly-emerging democracy.

Mr Hague also met National Transitional Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil and announced plans to offer Libyans injured in the conflict treatment in the UK. He said: "Today marks a watershed in the UK's relations with Libya.

"Having been one of the first diplomatic missions back into Tripoli after its liberation, we have now formally re-opened our embassy and appointed an excellent new ambassador to Libya, Sir John Jenkins.

"This is further recognition of the great progress the National Transitional Council has made in stabilising Libya and re-establishing the country's role as a full member of the international community."

Britain suspended its embassy operations in Tripoli in February and staff were evacuated on the last Government-chartered flight.

The building was looted and torched in May by angry mobs amid Nato air strikes on the Libyan capital.

Mr Hague announced more details of the package of support the UK is providing to the interim government, including providing medical and security expertise.

He added: "The Libyan people's decisive break with the past means we are now able to open a new era in UK-Libya relations, building on our military, political, diplomatic and humanitarian support to the Libyan people during their revolution."

Meanwhile yesterday, NTC forces said they had raised a flag over Bani Walid, one of the last remaining bastions of Gaddafi loyalists. Colonel Ahmed Bani of the National Transitional Council said that about 90 per cent of the town had been taken.