TRIPOLI, Libya — The leaders of Britain and France visited Libya on Thursday in a triumphal but heavily guarded tour intended to boost the country’s revolutionary leaders, whose forces were propelled to power with NATO’s help last month by routing Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and his military in the most violent conflict of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain and President Nicolas Sarkozyof France, who convened an international meeting two weeks ago in Paris in support of the new Libyan authorities, were the first world leaders to travel to the Libyan capital in the post-Qaddafi era. They pledged to keep up the NATO bombing — which their countries supervised — until the last of the recalcitrant Qaddafi forces surrendered. They also promised to help track down the elusive Colonel Qaddafi, and to provide political and economic aid to the new leaders seeking to fill the void left by his four decades of absolute rule.
The Cameron-Sarkozy visit, which also included a stop in the eastern city of Benghazi, where both were greeted warmly by residents, came as anti-Qaddafi forces claimed they had punched holes in the loyalist defenses surrounding the Mediterranean enclave of Surt, Colonel Qaddafi’s tribal hometown and one of the redoubts of support for him.
Jalal al-Gallal, a spokesman for the Transitional National Council, the interim government, said that a large force of fighters from the port city of Misurata had attacked Surt from the city’s western and the southern approaches, briefly beating back a defensive line of pro-Qaddafi troops. He said the Misurata fighters were able to reach a roundabout in the west of the city before the defenders drove them back out of town. “They met fierce resistance and had to withdraw,” Mr. Gallal said. Mohammed Darrat, a spokesman for the Misurata brigade, said in a telephone interview that 11 of its fighters were killed and 25 wounded and that the brigade pulled back by nightfall.
Both sides in the Libya conflict have often overstated combat victories, and it was impossible to confirm the accounts of the Surt fighting. But Mr. Darrat’s admission of casualties suffered by the anti-Qaddafi fighters suggested that the Surt defenses were resilient.
Both Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy, clearly enjoying the friendly reception they were getting from grateful Libyans in Tripoli and Benghazi, heaped praise on them. “This was your revolution, not our revolution,” Mr. Cameron said to the Libyans, praising “incredibly brave” rebels for “removing the dreadful dictatorship of Qaddafi.”
But with Colonel Qaddafi still at large, Mr. Cameron said, “this is not finished, this is not done, this is not over.”
Both countries have interests in preserving potentially lucrative oil deals made under the Qaddafi government, and intend to compete for the contracts as part of the reconstruction and restoration of Libya’s battered infrastructure.
For his part, Mr. Sarkozy called for Libyans to show forgiveness to their internal adversaries and not resort to vengeance and score-settling as the conflict winds down, echoing a theme expressed by the leaders of the Transitional National Council. He also said France expected no favorable treatment in exchange for pressing the NATO campaign.
“What we did we did without a hidden agenda, but because we wanted to help Libya,” he said.
The visit to Tripoli itself was held under heavy security and was diplomatically awkward, at least, because Libya technically has no head of state. The leader of the Transitional National Council, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, and the de-facto prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, appeared with Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy at a news conference in Tripoli. But Mr. Abdel-Jalil has not even officially moved himself to Tripoli yet from the council’s base in Benghazi, where the anti-Qaddafi revolt began in March.
While a growing number of Transitional National Council officials have come to Tripoli, the bulk remain in Benghazi. Their official position is that the government will not relocate here until they declare the conflict over — which will not happen until Colonel Qaddafi and one of his fugitive sons, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, who had been considered his heir apparent and often acted on Colonel Qaddafi’s behalf, are either captured or confirmed out of the country.
Mr. Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy said they would press for the release of billions of dollars worth of Libyan assets frozen under United Nations sanctions against Colonel Qaddafi. Mr. Cameron also said, “we will help you find Qaddafi and bring him to justice,” but did not explain how Britain would do that. Technically, NATO surveillance planes could be deployed to detect movements by or signals from Colonel Qaddafi.
British newspapers have reported that British Special Forces are on the ground in Libya, though the military does not generally comment on reports of such activity.
Referring to the former Libyan leader, Mr. Cameron declared, “It’s time for him to give himself up” and face justice.
France was the first country to recognize the rebels and took credit for initiating airstrikes that halted a loyalist column closing in on Benghazi. Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron have since said those initial strikes prevented the thousands of deaths that would have occurred if pro-Qaddafi forces had entered the city.
Mr. Cameron’s visit was announced here only after he landed — a measure of the continued concerns about security with pro-Qaddafi forces still holding out in several towns in other parts of Libya.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said in a televised speech on Thursday that he would not surrender to NATO forces while accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of being a “war criminal”.
“This Sarkozy is a war criminal who has stained the history of the French nation and destroyed his country’s ties with Libya and Muslim countries,” Gaddafi said in a message to supporters.
He said that he would not give up, and he was ready “to die at any moment.”
Gaddafi called on his supporters to prepare to march to Misurata and Benghazi and the western mountains.
“We are ready for martyrdom and death at every moment,” Gaddafi said in an audio broadcast through the Libyan State TV to his supporters gathering in an area, 79 km west of Tripoli.
It is the fourth audio recording of Gaddafi’s speech in the past two months.
France was the first country to recognize the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. French parliament decided on Tuesday to extend the military intervention in Libya, which entered the fourth month.
Trial of Destruction: Sarkozy sued for Libya crimes
The French investigative website Mediapart claims to have seen a confidential note suggesting Gaddafi contributed up to €50m (£42m) to Sarkozy’s election fund five years ago.
Similar allegations emerged a year ago when Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam claimed Libya helped finance the 2007 campaign and demanded the French president, who led the war on the Libyan leader, return the money.
In an interview with the Euronews TV channel, Saif al-Islam, who is currently being held in Libya after his father’s defeat and death, threatened to make details of the bank transfers public after the French leader threw his weight behind opposition forces.
The latest allegations come at a crucial time for Sarkozy who is seeking a second term in office in a two-round election in under six weeks.
Mediapart journalist Fabrice Arfi told the Guardian he had seen leaked documents contained in the legal dossier of the affair, currently under investigation by a judge.
“We knew these documents existed but it is the first time we have had the details of what was in them,” he said.
“And there are lots of details, including dates, places and amounts.”
One document, a government briefing note, allegedly points to visits to Libya by Sarkozy and his close colleagues and advisers, which it says were aimed at securing campaign funding.
Shortly after Sarkozy’s election, Colonel Gaddafi was invited to Paris and allowed to pitch his bedouin tent in the grounds of an official French residence close to the Elysée Palace. He was described as the “Brother Leader” by the French.
When previously asked about Saif al-Islam’s claims, a spokesman for the Elysée Palace told Le Monde: “We deny it, quite evidently.”
The US, Canada, France and the UK are engaging in an illegal war in Libya. They and NATO have openly violated the UN resolutions that were passed to bring an end to the conflict in Libya. NATO is actively supporting the Al Qaeda terrorists in Libya and have installed them as the defacto government. I do think that if the people of Libya wanted Qaddafi out they could and would have gotten rid of him. The problem however is that there were no large scale protests against Qaddafi’s government leading up to the conflict. There is however a great deal of evidence that the CIA and other intelligence agencies funded Islamic extremists in order to create the conflict in Libya which sparked the violence. I have mixed feelings about Qaddafi. On one hand he did do a great deal of good for Libya but there is also evidence he did many bad things as well. That however does not justify a war of aggression to be waged against the people of Libya. Since the conflict began there are have been more than 60,000 civilian casualties due to the NATO bombing of Libya.
A war of aggression is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense. Waging such a war of aggression is a crime under the customary international law. The governments of the United States, France, Britain and Canada waged and continues to wage such a war of aggression against Libya. As Libya did not attack the United States, France, Britain or Canada the U.S. lead unprovoked armed attacks against Libya are declared war crimes and crimes against humanity. The leaders of the attacking countries, including United States President Barack Hussein Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are therefore declared war criminals under International Law. A state which carries out or permits slavery, torture, genocide, war of aggression, or crimes against humanity is always violating customary international law. The leader of any state who carries out or permits slavery, torture, genocide, war of aggression, or crimes against humanity is guilty of an indictable offense.
When the United Nations General Assembly unanimously affirmed the Nürnberg principles in 1946, it affirmed the principle of individual accountability for the crimes of carrying out or permitting slavery, torture, genocide, war of aggression, or crimes against humanity. Barack Hussein Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron and Stephen Harper are all guilty, under International Law, of willful planning, preparing and initiating of a war of aggression against Libya. Libya did not attack Canada, the United States or any other foreign state. The Libyan civil unrest was a domestic conflict. The Libyan leaders have only killed foreign paid mercenaries. Mercenaries are not protected by the Geneva Convention. Any leader of any country can kill any and all mercenaries who are actively participating in acts of rebellion, revolt, sabotage, or any other act that seeks to overthrown the government.
Lawyers to sue Sarkozy for war-crimes over Libya campaig,Tripoli press conference
In Libya, new government forces are turning up the heat on Colonel Gaddafi’s remaining supporters. Meanwhile, some Western leaders are facing charges at home over the legacy of their military intervention.
The defiant loyalists are making a last stand in three key cities – Sirte, Bani Walid and Sabha – which have been under heavy assault for over a week, with reports Gaddafi and his sons could be hiding there.
The rest of Libya is reeling from months of civil war, which has left tens of thousands dead. There are reports that ongoing NATO airstrikes have landed wide of their mark, killing a number of civilians.
And some disturbing pictures of civilian casualties in Libya are moving French lawyers to turn against their government.
French ex-foreign minister Roland Dumas says he is ready to defend Muammar Gaddafi in the International Criminal Court, which has issued a warrant for his arrest.
But NATO will have to find the colonel first. Libya’s deposed leader is in hiding, for good reason.
“If they find him they’ll kill him. Like Bin Laden,” Dumas said. “Some states are now claiming the right to kill, against all international law.”
Nicolas Sarkozy faces lawsuits over ordinary people killed in the war in Libya. Lawyers in France now accuse the president of committing crimes against humanity.
Jacques Verges calls the Libyan war a new Vietnam, where the US sprayed tens of millions of liters of toxins on crops in the 60s and 70s, causing brain disorders, miscarriages and birth defects to this day.
“They are using missiles with depleted uranium, which cause cancer,” he claimed. “In Tripoli I saw people crippled by NATO attacks – office workers who have nothing to do with the fighting. That is why we are suing President Sarkozy for crimes against humanity.”
NATO first denied bombing the residence where 13 civilians, including four children, died. It then called the place a military command center. Journalist Michel Colon went to see what it really housed.
“Books, videos, Spiderman toys, cultural books, nothing military,” were what he saw there.
In another attack, Khaled El Awidi’s wife, child and grandchildren were reportedly killed in their home. NATO is accused of deliberately waging a campaign of terror.
“Their bombings targeted the electricity, water and food supply,” Awidi’s lawyer, Marcel Ceccaldi said. “After five months of daily NATO bombs and thousands of deaths, people will stop supporting the regime, because they just can’t take it anymore.”
Western leaders are poised for their first serious legal challenge over Libya. If they stop the cases coming to court altogether, adds Ceccaldi, it will prove once and for all that Western justice really is run by the politicians, not the rule of law.