BEIRUT

Middle East

Libyan leader vows his country will not be a burden

Mohammad al-Megaryef, president of Libya's ruling national assembly (L), delivers his speech near a portrait of late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Steven and an Arabic sign which reads "Thanks Chris" during a ceremony, on September 20, 2012, in Tripoli. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA

NEW YORK: New Libyan leader Mohamed al-Megaryef on Monday vowed his country would not be a burden to the international community as he held his first face-to-face talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After voicing his condolences again for a militant attack on the US mission in the eastern city of Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, Megaryef said in English: "We will not be a burden."

The two were meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, in the wake of more than a week of violent protests triggered by an anti-Islam film which saw tens of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets.

US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in the September 11 assault on the Benghazi mission, along with three other diplomatic staffers, when the compound came under sustained heavy arms fire for several hours.

"I also seize this opportunity to reaffirm that what happened on 11th of September towards these US citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments towards the American people," he added, in a softly-spoken speech, mostly through a translator.

He said the attack in Benghazi "was a very painful, huge tragedy, not only for the American people and the families of the victims, but also for the Libyan people."

"The Libyan people lost a friend, lost someone who was very supportive of them, someone who was very supportive of our revolution and someone who was always there for them."

Clinton told the Libyan leader that she wanted to thank him for his government's efforts "to help find and bring to justice all those responsible for the attack.

"I'd also like to thank the Libyan people for the outpouring of support they have shown to not only Ambassador Stevens, but on behalf of the United States," she said at the start of their talks in an upscale New York hotel.

"Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years," Clinton added.

"Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world. Mr President, that kind of courage deserves our support."

After the talks, a senior State Department official said the two sides had reviewed the efforts made to rein in the militias, to deal with shoulder-launched missiles and other excess weapons left over from the era of toppled tyrant Moamer Kadhafi.

Clinton "offered to intensify our support and help for the Libyan government in all of those areas," the official.

Megaryef, who is the head of the national assembly, said there were two main threats to Libyan security -- the threat from extremists, and also from remnants of the Kadhafi era.

"Security is their government's absolute highest priority," the US official said, adding they also talked about economic challenges facing Libya as it seeks to diversify away from being dependant on petrochemicals.

 

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