Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was buried in a secret desert location yesterday, and U.S. President Barack Obama said his death sends a “strong message” to other dictators that “people long to be free.”
Qaddafi was buried at dawn without the involvement of his tribe, said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, deputy head of the National Transitional Council.
“Qaddafi’s page has now been turned forever,” Ghoga said in a telephone interview from the eastern city of Benghazi.
Qaddafi died Oct. 20 while trying to escape from his besieged hometown of Sirte. Conflicting accounts emerged over the manner of his death, with Human Rights Watch saying evidence suggests he was executed and NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil saying initially that Qaddafi died in “crossfire” and later that he may have been killed by loyalists to silence him.
Qaddafi had the chance during the so-called Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East and Africa “to finally let loose of his grip on power and to peacefully transition to democracy,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” taped for broadcast yesterday.
“We gave him ample opportunity and he wouldn’t do it,” Obama said.
The NTC says it will form a new government within two weeks and hold elections within eight months. The council faces the tasks of uniting the factions that overthrew Qaddafi after eight months of fighting, disarming militias and restoring oil output.
Libya, which has the largest crude reserves in Africa, was producing about 1.6 million barrels of oil a day before the conflict broke out in mid-February, causing output to slump to a “trickle,” according to the International Energy Agency.
The country’s crude oil output has reached 500,000 barrels a day with the start of production at the Sharara field, 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the capital Tripoli, Oil and Finance Minister Ali Tarhouni told reporters yesterday in Benghazi. Money from oil sales will go toward paying for fuel purchases, he said.
Libya plans to restore oil production to about 1.7 million barrels a day within 15 months. Companies including Eni SpA and Total SA have returned as fighting ebbed.
The NTC is delaying exports of natural gas until it can satisfy domestic needs for the fuel, Tarhouni said. Libya will halt gas exports until at least mid-November, he said.
The NTC has formed a committee to investigate Qaddafi’s death, and is ready to cooperate with international bodies including the United Nations calling for a probe into the moments before Qaddafi died, said Tarhouni, who is taking over from acting Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril.
“Even though they represent small acts, nevertheless, we condemn those acts,” Tarhouni told reporters yesterday in Benghazi. “We’ll make sure we’ll investigate them.” Tarhouni said he would have preferred Qaddafi to go on trial.
Tarhouni said the NTC has asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to continue its Libyan mission for at least another month. NATO made a preliminary decision last week to begin winding down it enforcement of the no-fly zone and other military operations.
Tarhouni also said the new Libya will take a harsh line against corruption. Libyan authorities are scrutinizing contracts signed with some companies, and those deemed to be the result of corrupt practices will be nullified, Tarhouni said, without elaborating.
“The days of corruption are over in Libya, we will publish everything that we sign,” he said. “If you are a company and you have secrets, don’t come to us, because we will publish everything you tell us.”
--With assistance from Mariam Fam in Cairo, Kate Andersen Brower in Los Angeles and Terry Atlas in Washington. Editors: Terry Atlas, Jim Rubin.
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