Libya's de facto prime minister on Saturday called on the United Nations to unfreeze all frozen Libyan assets and urged the world community to stand beside his nation in its difficult road to reconstruction and national reconciliation.
To loud applause, National Transitional Council premier Mahmoud Jibril addressed the U.N. General Assembly, saying he was saddened by the thousands who had died in the fight to topple Moammar Gadhafi and whose "sacred blood was shed to write a new history for a new Libya."
In his first address to the world body since Gadhafi's ouster from 42 years in power, Jibril spoke from the same rostrum where, two years earlier, Gadhafi ripped apart a copy of the world body's charter during a lengthy rant. Jibril ridiculed that as "a pathetic theatrical move."
"A new Libya is coming to life," Jibril said, one that seeks to rebuild and reach out to the global community. He said the new nation's vision is one of "a state of democracy, ruled by a clear unambiguous constitution setting forth rights and obligations, that does not discriminate between male or female, one community or another, one political belief or another, or east or west."
Jibril spoke as the former rebels pushed into Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, in central Libya, on Saturday. NTC officials promised to announce an interim government in a week. The NTC has struggled to form a Cabinet, with debates still ongoing about several key issues, including the distribution of ministries between the west and east of the country. The east, from where the rebellion against Gadhafi gained momentum, was long marginalized under the ousted regime.
Jibril alluded to those challenges in his speech, saying that one key issue was agreeing on the rules of participation in the new government and juggling the expectations of the Libyan people as well as the expectations of the world community.
He said that "national unity without a united land, without national reconciliation, is a dream" and that it was of the "utmost importance" to put to a referendum a draft constitution that would guarantee rights for all in Libya. He did not, however, discuss timing.
Jibril, in urging the world community to back the NTC, said the unfreezing of some assets already has been ordered but vast sums are still withheld. That "does not rise to what is required in order to assure reconstruction and rehabilitation of the country," he said.
Libya's foreign assets, which are in the range of $110 billion, were largely frozen as part of a series of U.N. and Western sanctions on the now-ousted regime shortly after the civil war began in mid-February.
The Libyans have complained that the release has been moving slowly and that they are in dire need of money, not just to pay salaries and cover expenses, but also to begin the extensive reconstruction necessary after the conflict. Huge expenses were also expected to overcome the underdevelopment that prevailed during Gadhafi's regime.
The OPEC member was producing about 1.6 million barrels of crude oil per day at the start of the war, but that output largely ended during the war. Experts and analysts estimate it could take at least a year for them to reach comparable levels.
"The assets freeze on our funds must be lifted as urgently as possible," Jibril said, urging the Security Council to take action to unblock the assets. He assured the world that while pockets of resistance remained, the old regime was now history.
Jibril said the country faced daunting challenges aside from cementing a political structure.
"We do not claim to have a magic wand, as Moammar Gadhafi claimed when he looked at himself in the mirror and suddenly discovered that he is an almighty prophet with a solution to every problem on earth, except for Libya's problems," said Jibril.
Four decades of Gadhafi rule left 20 percent of the population living in poverty, created the region's worst educational and health care systems, left a collapsing infrastructure and unemployment among youths at over 30 percent, he said. "These are the solutions handed us by Moammar Gadhafi," he said.