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Libyan rebel leader to meet Sarkozy in Paris

One of the leaders of Libya’s National Transition Council is heading to France today for talks with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is pushing for a role in post-war Libya .

Mahmoud Jibril.
Mahmoud Jibril.
Image: Osama Faisal/AP/Press Association Images

THE HEAD OF Libya’s opposition government is heading to France for talks Wednesday with President Nicolas Sarkozy pushing for a role in post-war Libya even though longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Sarkozy will meet in the evening with Mahmoud Jibril, head of the Libyan rebels’ acting Cabinet, for talks on “the situation in Libya and the international community’s actions to support the political transition to a free and democratic Libya,” according to a statement from Sarkozy’s office.

Sarkozy, who championed the costly NATO airstrike campaign against Gaddafi’s forces despite a stalemate in recent months, lauded the oft-criticized military alliance.

“The tenacity of the allied forces paid off,” he told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, according to government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse.

The European Union is exploring ways to unfreeze billions of dollars in Libyan assets as quickly as possible to help rebuild the economy, restore essential services, reform the police and the army, and pay the salaries of a government headed by a rebel body called the National Transitional Council.

Western leaders will take up the issue of the possible release of frozen Libyan assets at a meeting Thursday in Istanbul, Turkey’s foreign minister said. It’s likely to be a key topic when France hosts foreign ministers of the “contact group” of nations leading efforts to stabilise Libya next week.

The United Nations is working on a post-conflict plan for Libya, and NATO planners are drawing up options for a possible role for the alliance in Libya after the civil war ends, officials said Wednesday.

France was the first country to recognize Jibril’s government and has been a driver of the NATO airstrike campaign against Gaddafi’s forces.

A defiant Gaddafi vowed Wednesday to fight on after hundreds of Libyan rebels stormed his compound in Tripoli but did not find the longtime leader.

“The end appears inevitable, and near,” Pecresse told reporters in Paris. “France, which took the initiative from the beginning … wants to continue to do so.”

Sarkozy was caught off guard by the uprisings that overthrew autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. He compensated by taking an early, strong line against Gaddafi.

“From now on, France’s policy in the Middle East and North Africa is clear… Tyranny has no future in the face of democratic aspirations of the people,” Sarkozy said Wednesday, according to Pecresse.

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