Libya focuses on border, integrating ex-fighters

AP News
Posted: Feb 12, 2013 10:22 AM
Libya focuses on border, integrating ex-fighters

PARIS (AP) — Libya's government is struggling to control its borders and retrieve the arms and explosives that were looted after longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi's downfall, according to the conclusions of an international meeting on Libyan security on Tuesday.

Countries that backed the 2011 revolution offered words of caution and support two years later. Libyan Foreign Minister M. Mohamed Abdelaziz acknowledged that significant problems remained in Libya, first among them how to police its borders and manage restless former fighters who are taking their skills — and troubles — outside the country.

The vast frontier between Libya and Algeria has been a particular problem — more than two dozen militants who seized control of the Ain Amenas gas installation in Algeria are believed to have crossed over the unpatrolled desert before taking hundreds of workers hostage.

Abdelaziz said a European Union training force would help, but he said his country had no need for foreign forces at the frontier. The communique said Libya instead would focus on integrating ex-fighters into a regular security force.

"Democracy will not be instituted by the Libyans alone," he said.

The central government has little authority beyond the capital, Tripoli, and the country is fractured by militias, tribes and regional loyalties.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also emphasized the problem of border security. The Ain Amenas facility attacked by militants is jointly run by BP, Algeria's Sonatrach and Norway's Statoil, and at least four of the 37 foreign workers killed were from Britain.

"It is important of course that Libya is able to secure its borders. That it is able to make sure that there aren't ungoverned spaces particularly in the south of Libya, that militias can be demobilized," he said. Britain is among the countries offering to help train the Libyans.

The chaos in Libya after Gadhafi's fall has implications far beyond the border areas. Arms and explosives stockpiled by his governments are smuggled to Mali, Egypt and its Sinai Peninsula, the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad. Libyan fighters have joined rebels in Syria and are believed to operate in other countries as well.