Libya asked the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to hold up on lifting the no-fly zone it imposed and ending its authorization to protect civilians until the transitional government makes an official request, possibly within days.
The council authorized the actions on March 17 in response to an Arab League request to try to halt Moammar Gadhafi's military which was advancing against rebels and their civilian supporters. The NATO bombing campaign that followed was critical in helping the rebels oust Gadhafi from power in August.
Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the Security Council the Libyan people look forward to terminating the U.N. mandates as soon as possible, explaining that they "hate any interference" in the country's sovereignty though they know NATO's military campaign was "indispensable" and saved many lives.
Dabbashi said "Oct. 31 is a logical date" but the transitional government needs to evaluate the security situation and the country's ability to monitor its borders.
Russia has proposed that the Security Council adopt a resolution terminating the no-fly zone and authorization of military action to protect civilians. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said before Wednesday's council meeting that this shouldn't be delayed beyond Oct. 31, but the French and British envoys have cautioned that any actions be coordinated with Libyan authorities when they are ready.
Last week, following Gadhafi's death, NATO announced preliminary plans to phase out its mission on Oct. 31. But the alliance earlier Wednesday unexpectedly postponed a decision, saying NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen needed to continue consultations with the United Nations and Libya's National Transitional Council, which declared the country's "liberation" on Sunday.
NATO aircraft continued air patrols Wednesday and spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the alliance's governing body, the North Atlantic Council, "will meet with partners on Friday to discuss our Libya mission and take a formal decision."
Libya's Dabbashi said the country's air force hasn't been activated, and the interim government has been criticized for delaying the reinstitution of nation's armed forces which are "the only force that can preserve our security and monitor our frontiers as well as protect the security of our citizens."
"Therefore, we wish to inform you not to be hasty in adopting a resolution, and we will inform you of the official decision of the NTC," Dabbashi told council members.
He said Libya expects to establish a new transitional government in the next two weeks and will then start trying to build a prosperous, democratic country that respects human rights. He said this will be difficult because Libya has no institutions _ a result of Gadhafi's more than four-decade dictatorship _ and the country will need U.N. assistance.
Ian Martin, the top U.N. envoy to Libya, told the Security Council that U.N. electoral officials have already met with NTC officials to discuss U.N. support for what will be Libya's first elections for over 45 years within eight months _ to choose a National Congress that will draft a constitution for the country.
Martin again highlighted "the terrible legacy of the extraordinary quantity of weaponry and munitions on which the Gadhafi regime squandered the wealth of Libya, to the benefit only of diverse arms suppliers, and now to the menace of Libya and its region."
He said the U.N. mission is continuing to facilitate coordination among the NTC and international organizations overseeing the control of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as other non-conventional weapons.
"While NTC forces appear to be controlling all relevant chemical and nuclear material sites, centralized command and control remains a concern," Martin said. "It has become clearer that there are additional sites with previously undeclared chemical weapons or materials that the government is about to formally declare" to the organization overseeing the convention that prohibits chemical weapons.
Libya also accumulated the largest known stockpile of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in any non-producing country. While thousands were destroyed during NATO operations, Martin said the U.N. is increasingly concerned "over the looting and likely proliferation" of these weapons and other munitions, as well as a spate of newly laid mines.
Associated Press Writer Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report from Brussels