World powers put aside their differences to hail 'new Libya'

Avoiding 'another Iraq' - a descent into civil war - was the unspoken purpose of the Paris meeting

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Indy Politics

Sixty countries showered blessings on the birth of a "new Libya" last night and promised further international efforts – including continued military operations – to ensure that that the infant prospers.

Several previously reluctant Godmothers – Russia, China and Germany – turned up for the party in Paris, co-hosted by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.

The brief summit, more celebration and photo-opportunity than negotiation, promised the rapid release of up to $110bn of Libyan assets frozen around the world. It called for the UN security council to send a "civilian mission" in the near future to help to start the process of building democratic Libyan institutions, from political parties to a police force and a free press.

Most of all, despite the unfinished business of the uncertain whereabouts of Muammar Gaddafi, the Paris summit celebrated and consecrated the Transitional National Council as the only legitimate political voice in Libya until elections can be held, possibly next year. Avoiding "another Iraq" in the "New Libya" – a descent into factional or tribal civil war was one of the the unspoken purposes of the meeting.

Russia, which had previously sniped at the Nato military campaign in Libya, tersely announced its recognition of the TNC. China has yet to do so but gave de facto recognition by sending an official to Paris.

Only South Africa, which enjoyed good relations with Gaddafi, refused to attend. The South African president Jacob Zuma accused western nations yesterday of undermining efforts by the African Union to negotiate a peaceful settlement early in the conflict.

President Sarkozy said afterwards that the most useful practical aid that other nations could give Libya in the near future was to return the money sent abroad by the deposed Gaddafi regime. He said: "We are committed to returning to the Libyans the monies of yesterday for the building of tomorrow."

The Prime Minister Mr Cameron praised Libyan people and the NTC for managing rthe collapse of 42 years of Gaddafi rule without anarchy. "Some people thought that chaos would start the moment the regime fell so what we are seeing emerging now in Libya, despite the years of repression and the trauma of recent days and months, is immensely impressive," Mr Cameron said.

Even the protocol of last night's summit was skewed to shower honours on the Transitional National Council. Of the 60 delegations to the Elysée Palace, only one received a ceremonial trumpet and drum fanfare and a personal handshake from President Sarkozy.

The TNC leaders Mustafa Abdul-Jalil and Mahmoud Jibril grinned stiffly and blinked into the cameras. The US secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived seconds later, and even the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, merited no drum-roll and no presidential handshake.

After the three hour meeting, Mr Jalil said Libyans should show their readiness to repay the "commitment" made by the international community. They must prove that they were capable of replacing the Gaddafi era with "stability, democracy and respect for the state of law".

Nearby, a demonstration had gathered to celebrate the summit. Fifty members of the French Libyan community, including a dozen children, sang and chanted anti-Gaddafi slogans. "We are here to thank Sarkozy and France," said Assalah Makhzioume. "Not just France of course. All the countries who helped us but especially France for giving us our country back."

Who wants what from the summit


Britain has taken a leading role in the Nato operation, and David Cameron is co-chairing the talks. The RAF has already flown £140m of unfrozen assets to Libya. The Prime Minister is also keen to secure cooperation in tracking down the killers of WPC Yvonne Fletcher.


The other prime mover in the anti-Gaddafi alliance. Its banks hold €7.6 billion in frozen Libyan assets and France has asked the UN sanctions committee for authorisation to release a fifth of that. Dispatching diplomats to Tripoli to reopen its embassy.


Washington has dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Paris, signalling how seriously it takes rebuilding Libya given post-conflict quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mrs Clinton was due to announce that $1.5bn of frozen Gaddafi funds are to be released to the rebels.


Libya's former colonial ruler unblocked €500m in Libyan assets this week. It has close business ties with the regime and many of its refineries were designed to deal with Libyan crude. It has concerns over illegal immigration.


According to reports yesterday, Algeria, one of Muammar Gaddafi's closest allies, and the country to where his wife, daughter and two of his sons have fled, is prepared to recognise the TNC when it forms a government. However, it has not yet taken any steps to unfreeze assets it only belatedly blocked in June.

South Africa

There was a diplomatic spat last week between South Africa – a huge beneficiary of aid under the Gaddafi regime – and TNC supporters over the unfreezing of assets worth $1.5bn. South Africa, the most powerful country on the continent, has insisted that an African Union "roadmap" is the only way of achieving peace. No South African representative will be at the conference.


Recognised the rebel government yesterday, despite its opposition to the Nato bombing campaign against Gaddafi. With oil, infrastructure and arms contracts worth billions with the old regime, Russia is anxious to protect its economic interests.


The only member of the Security Council yet to recognise the TNC, China has also sent a lower-ranking envoy to the conference than its counterparts. According to Chinese state media, Beijing was involved in $20bn worth of contracts with Gaddafi.