At a joint press conference in Washington on Thursday with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib denied Russian accusations that his government was training Syrian rebels in camps in Libya.
The accusations were made at a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday by Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin. “We have received information,” Churkin said, “that in Libya, with support from the authorities, there is a special training center for the Syrian revolutionaries and that people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government,”
“As far as training camps, unless this is something that is done without government permission, which I doubt, I’m not aware of any” Al-Kib told reporters at the State Department on Thursday.
Shortly beforehand, in a statement to the press, Clinton has said that Washington was working with the Libya to help deal with the Libyan problems with border security, integrating militias and working toward national reconciliation.
She said that the US was “proud to continue that support as the people of Libya build a new democracy that will bring about peace and prosperity and protect the rights and dignity of every citizen”.
Qaddafi, she said, had spent 42 years “hollowing out” Libya’s institutions, “ruling through intimidation and division”, but that over the last four months, the interim government had provided “essential and effective leadership”. They had, she said, “begun the hard work of putting Libya back together”.
“We’ve seen progress in each of the three key areas of democratic society – building an accountable, effective government; promoting a strong private sector; and developing a vibrant civil society. And we will stand with the people of Libya as it continues this important work.”
She praised Libya’s election plans in June. “We fully support the elections commission as it works to meet its deadlines and ultimately elect a fully democratic parliament that can begin delivering results for the Libyan people. We’re also encouraged by the prime minister’s and the government’s commitment to promoting human rights and the rule of law, and we are offering help to the government as they continue investigating allegations of human rights violations. They realise and we applaud their commitment to ending this kind of violence in the new free Libya.”
She pointed out the progress being made. “On the economic front, business is picking up. Libya has exceeded everyone’s expectations in resuming oil production. The United States and the UN have removed almost all restrictions on doing business, and we are encouraging American companies to look for opportunities inside Libya. We also are supporting the booming new civil society that is developing in Libya. I was delighted when I visited Tripoli to go to the university, to talk with young people, to meet with others who are fighting for women’s rights and human rights in their country.”
She said that the US was looking at establishing a US-Libya higher education task force to enable more Libyans to study in the US and to enable academic exchanges. “I am pleased that we will begin providing visa services at Embassy Tripoli for Libyan Government officials. We want to get permanent facilities, but obviously in the short term, we want to set up shop and begin to reach out in the most important way – on a people-to-people basis to the Libyans.”
For his part, the prime minister thanked Clinton, along with President Barack Obama and the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice along with the American people for their “tremendous support” in supporting the Libyan revolution.
“We Libyans,” he said, “are very proud of our young men and women who brought freedom to our country after 42 years of a brutal regime that nobody felt would disappear in eight months. So we do thank our friends and partners so much for having been there when we needed them.”
He said that he was in Washington “to find ways on how we can work and how we can better work together”. He said that he wanted help from the US to track down and bring to justice the remnants from the Qaddafi regime who were still causing problems for Libya.
“And we also need the funds they have stolen from the Libyan people to come back to Libya. So we look forward to help in that area from the U.S. and from everybody else who can help us here. It’s very important to us.”
He said that now that the war is almost over, American business could play play an important role in rebuilding Libya and thus enable Libyans “to meet our aspirations for peace, prosperity, and high quality of life.”
“We are determined to do that,” he said.
Asked whether she had raised the issue of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi who was found guilty by a Scottish court for the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 but released on compassionate grounds because that said to have had just weeks to live, Clinton said she had and that she believed “Megrahi should still be behind bars”. She said that the Libyan authorities “have assured us that they understand the sensitivities of this case, and they will give the matter the consideration it deserves.”