United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signaled Wednesday that the body will be quick to assist Libya as it navigates an uncertain future.
Speaking at a downtown Denver gala scheduled before Moammar Gadhafi's regime began to crumble, Ban referenced a vote this week by the U.N. Security Council on a resolution that would release $1.5 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks frozen by the world body.
Ban called the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East "a natural evolution of history" and said the rest of the world must help to ensure a peaceful transition away from autocratic regimes.
"Their yearnings for fundamental freedom and democracy will be realized as soon as possible," Ban said.
The secretary-general was in Denver to accept an award from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. University staffers said Ban originally planned to stay in Denver another day to meet with students studying diplomacy, but he would be leaving immediately to tend to developments with Libya.
Ban hosts a meeting of key regional organizations to plan for post-conflict Libya on Friday.
The head of Libya's rebel Cabinet, Mahmoud Jibril, was in Paris Wednesday hoping to project an image of a government-in-waiting and secure the release of the Libyan assets.
Ban told the Denver crowd that "We recognize still there are potential dangers, and enormous challenges remain" in the region. As he has before, Ban criticized Syrian President Bashar Assad for failing to halt a military crackdown on dissent that has killed nearly 2,000 people in that country.
"We must do our part to protect people threatened with extreme violence for practicing their basic rights," Ban said.
Earlier Wednesday, Ban toured the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory in suburban Denver. Ban said that action to address global warming is "a moral and political responsibility for a country like the United States."