Libya conflict: Cameron and Sarkozy visit Tripoli


The leaders of Britain and France got a rapturous reception in Libya

British PM David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are in Libya, the most senior Western leaders to visit since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

Their countries were at the forefront of Nato's Libyan operation.

They met National Transitional Council (NTC) leaders in Tripoli, and are to fly to Benghazi to speak in the former rebel stronghold's Liberty Square.

NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil thanked the two leaders for taking "brave positions" during the Libyan uprising.

"They showed us political, economic and military support which helped the rebels establish a state, and we thank France and the UK for that," he told a Tripoli news conference.

On Wednesday, Mr Abdul Jalil had appealed for weapons to help the NTC take the few areas of Libya still loyal to Col Gaddafi, telling the BBC the fugitive leader was in the country's south, plotting his revenge.

Responding to Mr Jalil's welcome, the British and French leaders praised the bravery of the Libyan people, and pledged continued support for the NTC's goal of creating a peaceful and democratic state.

"The fact that roads are full of traffic, your water is flowing, your hospitals are working, this is impressive," said Mr Cameron.

"But... Gaddafi is still at large. We must keep on with the Nato mission until civilians are all protected and this work is finished.

"We will help you find Gaddafi and bring him to justice, and we will help you take dangerous weapons such as mines and surface-to-air missiles out of Libya."

Mr Sarkozy urged Libyans to avoid "vengeance and retaliation", calling on them to preserve unity and seek reconciliation.

He said France's focus was on consolidating the position of the NTC and pursuing the last remnants of the Gaddafi regime, rather than focusing on economic deals or reconstruction contracts.

Easing sanctions

Mr Cameron and Mr Sarkozy arrived in Libya earlier on Thursday and flew by helicopter to a hospital where they were greeted by crowds of cheering staff and patients.


Britain and France have been spearheading the ongoing Nato campaign over Libya, so it is no surprise that David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are the first western leaders to visit since anti-Gaddafi forces took control of the capital Tripoli last month.

Although it is only going to last a few hours, the visit is a further sign of the widening international support for Libya's interim authorities.

The NTC is still struggling to consolidate their position, and have not yet moved their government from the former rebel stronghold of Benghazi to the capital.

The NTC has appealed for more international help to flush fighters loyal to the ousted leader from the few remaining parts of the country where they are putting up fierce resistance.

The two leaders are hugely popular in Libya, where common graffiti slogans include: "Merci Sarkozy!" and "Thank you Britain!"

Their visit had been under consideration for several weeks, correspondents say. Initially the plan had been to wait until security had improved across Libya, but the trip was brought forward to show support for the NTC after its arrival in Tripoli at the weekend.

Mr Cameron, who is accompanied by UK Foreign Minister William Hague, was set to announce that Britain is to:

  • deploy a UK military team to advise the NTC on security
  • return Libyan assets totalling £600m ($948m) to the interim authorities as soon as possible
  • make 50 places available in UK specialist hospitals for critically ill Libyans
  • provide £600,000 for de-mining efforts and £60,000 to pay for a police communications system

The UK on Wednesday circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would ease UN sanctions against Libya. Many UN countries - including all five permanent members of the Security Council - have recognised the NTC as Libya's legitimate authority. But the African Union, which met on Wednesday evening, has yet to do so.

Mr Sarkozy is reportedly travelling with 160 security officers, mostly from the specialist CRS riot squad.

'All the gold'

Nato has been carrying out air strikes under a mandate from two UN resolutions to protect Libyan civilians.

The US on Wednesday said it was encouraged by the increasing control the NTC was exercising over security forces in the country.

Saadi Gaddafi, 2011

A written message attributed to Col Gaddafi, meanwhile, appealed to the UN to stop "crimes" against his birthplace, Sirte.

His whereabouts are unknown, although he has previously said he would rather die than flee Libya.

On Wednesday, a message purporting to have been written by Col Gaddafi - and read out by a presenter on a pro-Gaddafi Syrian TV channel - called on the UN to "bear your international responsibility and intervene immediately to stop this crime".

As well as Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, Gaddafi loyalists still control parts of Bani Walid, south-east of the capital, and Jufra, while Mr Jalil said many pro-Gaddafi forces had fled to Sabha in the southern desert.

"There will be fierce battles in Sabha with equipment that we do not yet have, and we ask for more equipment to retake these places," he told the BBC on Wednesday.

He added that Col Gaddafi had possession of "all the gold" and would be planning attacks on cities, oil-fields and power plants.

NTC officials say members of the former leader's inner circle took gold and cash with them when they fled south across the border to Niger last week.

Mr Jalil confirmed that the NTC would not move the whole of its administration to Tripoli until the last pockets of pro-Gaddafi resistance had been captured.

At least 36 members of the fugitive leader's inner circle, including relatives and generals, have fled to neighbouring Algeria and Niger since Tripoli fell to NTC forces last month.

With roads to Tunisia, Egypt, Chad and Sudan largely controlled by anti-Gaddafi forces, Niger has been used as an exit route by Gaddafi loyalists - including his son Saadi.

Anti-Gaddafi fighters say they have captured the northern half of Bani Walid but have struggled to push further.

Map of pro-Gaddafi towns

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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    There must be oil contracts to sign.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    You've got to hand it to Cameron as a slick PR man he never misses an opportunity to play the White Knight in Shining Armour. The country can be going to the dogs back in the U.K. with 80,000 more people on the dole and mass strikes planned for November 30th - not to mention stagflation in the economy and George Osborne looking like a rabbit caught in car headlights and petrified to move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    There are many comments from people who think they should be back at 'home' sorting out their own countries problems...
    For most of us in the UK we are glad to see the back of this unelected and incompetent 'man'. The most drastic cuts in our history at the hands of an unelected government who go against independent advice and get involved in yet more illegal wars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    ON EGO TRIP ???

    What else could they be doing there.

    Mr Ki Moon should be the guy visiting as Head of the UN.

    Cameron should be dealing with our economic problems and the rising unemployment here at home, and leave the Libyans to sort their problems out for themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Its about time that this con-den government started sorting out our problems rather than countries that do not have allegiance with us.
    As soon as all the assets have been released back to Libya, they will not want to have anything to do with NATO or Britain and France.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Personally I would have gone by Aircraft Carrier - Oh I haven't got one - I'm still stuck on Far Cry 2 wheres I at a bar and meant to be meetings a friend - Maybe hes been renditioned - Curses

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    For some reason I don't think this will be Cameron's Falklands moment!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Its a pity Cameron didnt have a one way ticket out there,mind you they would soon get the measure of him and boot him out,long live the day when he gets booted out here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    For goodness sake Cameron we are neck deep in problems here at home without you rocking up offering soundbites to the Libyans. Get yourself back home roll your sleeves up and get stuck into our own domestic mire. Mind you I note EDF are putting up gas prices by an outrageous 15% (bet not in France though, where energy is capped), did you take some piping with you by chance? Do something useful eh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    They are there for the reason they got involved in the first place - to cash in on all that high grade oil. Other wise they would've gotten involved in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria a long time ago. Their game shows in their faces at least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    4.ichabod i know what you mean, if you exploit a peoples, you should expect a good return.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    " procopius
    When you've problems at home and no real idea what to do then embark on a foreign "adventure" to distract the population."

    Worked wonders for Maggie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Lets see Russian anti aircraft missiles, Thousands of Landmines and other weapons and explosives being flooded into the black Market and yet again we have had our leaders go in without thinking of the after effects or any contingency plans.

    well done they have rearmed or armed some fanatics in the middle east who i doubt will use these in the best interest of Europe

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.



    i like to downvote comments that suggest that the problems inherant in this country can't just be pointed towards the labour party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    A disgraceful waste of public money and politicians time. Sarkozy and Cameron both have enough to do in sorting out the mess in their own countries.

    Too bad they show more interest in junketing overseas than performing at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    We - are - your - friends...

    Now can we have your oil contracts back please!

    No hugs for the NTC, Dave?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Glad to see another socialist regime in the bin of history. Well done to the Lybian people and thanks to NATO and their leaders for supporting them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    When you've problems at home and no real idea what to do then embark on a foreign "adventure" to distract the population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Good to see no British troops were needed on the ground and we are not in the mess of another Iraq or Afghanistan.
    Thanks Blair for another fine mess to sort out.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Enjoy it now before it becomes an Islamic Republic!
    Liberation yay...


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