- (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has made a surprise trip to Libya to show support for Libya’s new leaders and cement post-Gaddafi ties with the new government on behalf of the Obama Administration.
Clinton pledged millions of dollars, totaling to about $11 million, in aid to the new leaders of Libya which includes medical care for wounded fighters and additional assistance in the securing and destroying dangerous Gaddafi-era weaponry that many fear could land in the hands of terrorists.
Officials told reporters that the new aid was evidence of Washington’s commitment to working with the National Transitional Council (NTC).
The administration has already pledged around $135 million in assistance to Libya’s rebel leaders. However, Clinton has come to offer more assistance, announcing a new set of programs designed to foster closer U.S.-Libyan ties. Programs being proposed include efforts such as resuming student exchange programs between the two countries, and also include a project with Oberlin College in Ohio to help preserve ancient ruins at Cyrene.
Clinton is the highest-ranking official to visit the country since fall of Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.
Clinton urged the new government to unify the myriad of rebellious militias into a new security structure so as to ensure conflict does not erupt between the rebel groups. She also discussed the plans for political transition with NTC leaders.
Clinton stressed the importance for the NTC to maintain its eight-month timetable for elections in the country and also urged the government not to unleash retaliatory violence against Gaddafi loyalists.
Clinton said, “It is going to be a challenge for them to make sure that in all cases they are able to have fair judicial procedures that meet international standards, just given the history of Libya over the past 42 years.”
However, she added, “The intensions certainly strike us being sincere, we have positive examples, but there’s definitely going to be challenges going forward.”
Clinton comes to Libya a day after rebel forces claimed to gain control of the Gaddafi-loyalist stronghold of Bani Walid. However, fighting for control of Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, continues while Gaddafi himself remains at large.
Even with rebels having taken control of government, Gadddafi remains a “lethal nuisance” in the country according to one unidentified senior administration official.