(Updates with report of South African involvement in evacuation of Qaddafi family in sixth paragraph. See EXTRA for more on the Libyan conflict.)
Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Leaders of the international coalition that helped topple Muammar Qaddafi pledged economic and military support to Libya’s new administration as the former strongman vowed a long insurgency against his opponents.
A group of about 60 nations, dubbed the “Friends of Libya,” agreed at a meeting in Paris yesterday to release billions of dollars in frozen funds for humanitarian and reconstruction needs. They also promised to maintain military pressure on forces loyal to Qaddafi, now in hiding, and urged Libya’s new leaders to avoid recriminations and to set up a functioning state quickly.
“We are all committed to returning to Libya the money of yesterday for the building of tomorrow,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said from a podium at a press briefing that he shared with leaders of Britain, Qatar, the United Nations and the National Transitional Council, the umbrella group of Libyan forces that ousted Qaddafi. NATO would continue air strikes “for as long as Qaddafi remains a threat,” he said.
The meeting underscored the urgency of maintaining momentum following a five-month allied military effort that climaxed in August as the rebels took the capital, Tripoli.
On the Run
Since then, Qaddafi has been on the run, while some of his family has taken shelter in neighboring Algeria.
Family members were taken to Algeria by a team of 35 former South African special forces members who were paid $15,000 each for the operation, Johannesburg’s New Age newspaper reported today, citing an unidentified person who declined a request to take part in the mission.
Algeria’s El Watan newspaper, citing an Algerian government official, said that Qaddafi has been in the Libyan border town of Ghadamis after Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika refused to take his telephone call. That account could not be confirmed.
In taped comments broadcast by Syrian-based Arrai television yesterday, Qaddafi said his remaining loyalists in Bani Walid and Sirte won’t heed an ultimatum by the NTC that they lay down their arms.
“We will not give up. We are not women,” Qaddafi said in the audio recording. “Let the fight be long, let Libya be engulfed in flames.”
‘Fight The Colonizers’
“Get ready to fight the colonizers like your fathers and grandfathers did,” he said in a second message hours later in a calmer voice, alluding to resistance during the half-century of colonial rule after Italy took the territory from the Ottoman Empire in 1911. “Get ready for a guerrilla war, a city war.”
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the NTC, said that Qaddafi “is still a threat” and that he welcomes the continued support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The rebels extended by a week a Sept. 3 deadline for Qaddafi loyalists in his hometown of Sirte to surrender, the council’s U.K. coordinator, Guma Al Gumaty, said yesterday in a telephone interview.
“The negotiations are going well, and we believe that this will end peacefully before the new deadline expires,” he said.
The one-day Paris meeting at the presidential Elysee Palace marked a shift from backing rebel aspirations to supporting the new leaders of Libya as they try to establish order and restore their economy.
Resuming Oil Exports
The urgency in unfreezing Libyan government assets comes in part because it may be a year or more before full resumption of oil exports. Shokri Ghanem, Libya’s former top oil official who defected earlier this year, said he doesn’t expect crude production to return to pre-conflict levels of more than 1.5 million barrels a day until the end of 2012, according to the Sept. 5 issue of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly.
The nations that took part in the Paris meeting included those that participated in providing air cover for the rebels -- such as the U.S., France, Britain, Italy and Qatar -- as well as Germany and others that refused to commit military forces.
“Some people thought there might be chaos the moment the regime fell,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said. “We cannot afford a failed state on Europe’s borders.”
The U.S. was represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the UN by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Other attendees included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.
UN Role Envisioned
China sent vice foreign minister Zhai Jun, while Russia sent Mikhail Margelov, special envoy for Africa and the Middle East. Russia recognized the NTC as Libya’s legitimate government. Tunisia and Morocco dispatched their prime ministers, and Egypt its foreign minister.
The transitional council needs to convert from an anti- Qaddafi military alliance into a caretaker government able to unite regional and political factions, restart the country’s oil exports and organize elections.
Ban said the allied leaders agreed that the UN would have a leading role in establishing the framework of a civil society after the end of a regime that has been in place for more than four decades. Italy will offer carabinieri military police to help train police and border guard forces, Berlusconi said after the meeting.
In remarks at the general meeting, Clinton said the UN should begin lifting sanctions against Libya and urged allies to provide the NTC with financial support.
She announced that the U.S. has so far released more than $700 million from a total $1.5 billion in assets that have been unfrozen to help the NTC pay for fuel and civilian operational costs and salaries. Clinton said Libya’s new leaders have a responsibility to form an inclusive democracy and avoid reprisals and violent extremism.
As the new leaders consolidate power, Clinton said the U.S. and others “will support their efforts to demobilize and integrate fighters into a single security force.”
France wants to release 1.5 billion euros ($2.1 billion) by the end of the week, said a French official who briefed reporters on the condition he not be named.
The European Union lifted sanctions on 28 Libyan entities because anti-Qaddafi forces control them, the 27-nation bloc said yesterday in an e-mailed statement in Brussels.
The Libyan entities will be disclosed today, when the decision is published in the EU Official Journal. Among the businesses are six port authorities, a person familiar with the matter said Aug. 31.
--With assistance from Christopher Stephen in Misrata, Jonathan Stearns in Brussels, Caroline Alexander in London, Nadeem Hamid in Washington, Nicole Gaouette in Paris, Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg, Paul Abelsky in Moscow and Margot Habiby in Dallas. Editors: Terry Atlas, Karl Maier, Paul Richardson
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