William Hague reopens UK's Libya embassy

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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 today 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.

Mr Hague 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.

"I am therefore pleased to make the following announcements:

"First, the UK will make available places for Libyans injured in the conflict to receive treatment in the UK.

"Up to 50 more patients who have suffered traumatic amputations will be offered rehabilitation and prosthetics care.

"Libyan health experts will be invited to observe the care so that they can support these patients on their return to Libya and others with similar injuries.

"Second, we are also increasing our contribution to security and stability in Libya. We are making available further support for emergency de-mining activities by the UN Mine Actions Service.

"This will help to protect thousands of people so that they can return to their homes including around Sirte and Bani Walid.

"And along with the US we are destroying hundreds of Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS) to improve security throughout Libya.

"Third, at the NTC's request, UK experts on policing civil society and public financial management are now working in Libya.

"Fourth, the final requested shipment of Libyan banknotes frozen in the UK will be delivered to Libya, helping the economy to get back on track and provide for the Libyan people.

"To date, the UK has allocated £20.6 million to support Libya's stabilisation and up to a further £20 million to support political and economic reform.

"Our embassy will have an important role to play as we build our relations with the new Libya, as will the diplomatic office we are maintaining in Benghazi, and I have every confidence that our diplomats here will do so with distinction."