UN, regional groups urge end to Libya fighting

AP News
Posted: Aug 26, 2011 7:07 PM
UN, regional groups urge end to Libya fighting

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that African, Arab and European organizations agreed on the urgent need to end the fighting in Libya and restore order with help from international police if the new government requests security assistance.

The U.N. chief told reporters after a videoconference with top officials of the African Union, Arab League, European Union and Organization of Islamic Cooperation that "all agreed that the crisis in Libya has entered a new and decisive phase" and a smooth transition is essential with the U.N. playing a key coordinating role.

"That transition must be grounded in inclusiveness, reconciliation and national unity _ under a new government that can effectively deliver on the Libyan people's aspirations for democracy, freedom, and growing social and economic prosperity," Ban said.

"Clearly, the challenges ahead are enormous," he said.

The opposition National Transitional Council, which controls most of the country, is setting up an interim government in Tripoli despite ongoing street battles in the capital. It says it urgently needs at least $5 billion in frozen assets to pay state salaries and maintain services in Libya, including in areas still under Moammar Gadhafi's control, as well as for salaries for an army and a police force to restore order and confiscate arms.

Earlier on Friday, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the rebel council, called for the urgent release of frozen Libyan assets, saying the government could face a "legitimacy crisis" if the Libyan people's demands are not met.

He also urged the African Union to recognize the council, known as the NTC. But South African President Jacob Zuma said after the AU meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the 53-nation organization would not yet recognize Libyan rebels as the new government.

Many African nations have long ties with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including South Africa, and the AU has had difficulty taking a unanimous stand.

"Fighting is still going on. That is the reality," said Zuma, who chairs the AU committee on Libya. "We can't say this is a legitimate (government) now."

He said the AU did not rule out pro- or anti-Gadhafi forces from taking part in a future Libyan government. African countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria that already recognized the rebels were free to do so and also support the AU position, he said.

The United Nations has urged African leaders to "encourage new leadership" in Libya.

"We must help the country's new leaders to establish an effective, legitimate government that represents and speaks for all the country's diverse people," U.N. deputy secretary general Asha-Rose Migiro told AU leaders.

The secretary-general said leaders of the four regional organizations agreed with the U.N. that "there is an urgent need to put an end to the conflict and restore order and stability."

"All agreed that, if the Libyan authorities request, we should be prepared to help develop police capacity, bearing in mind that the country is awash with small arms," he said.

The international community must also come together and help Libya deal with shortages of fuel, food, medical supplies and water, he said.

Ban said he had spoken to Jibril twice, including on Friday afternoon, and would meet him on the sidelines of an international conference on Libya hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris next Thursday.

Jibril, who was in Turkey to attend a meeting of the so-called "Contact Group" of some 30 countries leading efforts to stabilize Libya, told a news conference in Istanbul on Friday that he hoped a rebel representative would soon take up the country's seat at the U.N.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who stood beside him, said "the waving of the new flag, international recognition and financial support are the three pillars for a sovereign Libya."

The U.S. and South Africa reached a deal Thursday that will release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets in American banks which the U.S. is earmarking for the cash-strapped rebels.

South Africa had blocked agreement in the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya on unfreezing the $1.5 billion in U.S. banks over concerns that it implied recognition of the Council. South Africa, the AU and the U.N. have not recognized the rebel government.

Analysts estimate that as much as $110 billion is frozen in banks worldwide. Several European nations are also seeking to release funds, including Britain, France and Italy.

A British official said Friday that Britain is seeking the release of about 1 billion pounds worth ($1.6 billion) of Libyan dinars which were printed in the United Kingdom. In March, Britain blocked the export of the bank notes, which are manufactured by British currency printer De La Rue.


Associated Press Writers Luc Van Kemenade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.