BEIRUT

Middle East

Libya gets Western support for enhanced security

Abdel-Aziz during a joint news conference with Fabius in Paris.

PARIS: Top Libyan and Western officials Tuesday agreed on a plan to improve security following the 2011 ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, including tighter borders, disarming former fighters and training troops.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was joined for the talks by his Libyan counterpart Mohammad Abdel-Aziz and other top Libyan officials as well as the foreign ministers of Britain, Italy, Denmark, Turkey and Malta.

“Much has already been achieved but issues remain, including border security, weapons, the rule of law, human rights, etc,” Fabius said.

He added international support for the Libyans came in many forms including, “the rapid deployment of European experts to train Libyan security forces and police and help to rebuild the army, navy and air force.”

Diplomatic sources said the talks were the result of serious concerns over Libyan security, including over the weapons flooding across the region from Gadhafi’s vast weapons storehouses since his regime’s demise.

Islamist rebels who took control of Mali last year are among those believed to have benefited from the looting of Gadhafi’s vast weapons storehouses.

“The security of North Africa is an integral part of the security of the Mediterranean as a whole,” Abdel-Aziz said, pointing out that his country’s borders stretched over 6,000 kilometers.

“Organized crime is very active, terrorism is very active,” he said, calling for “a united front against terrorism.”

A statement issued after the talks said an EU mission to improve border management would be deployed by June.

Tripoli has pledged to reform its judiciary and the prison system as well as promote national reconciliation through truth-seeking processes and trying to identify and locate missing persons.

Several Western governments have been alarmed at the deteriorating security situation in Libya’s second city Benghazi, and many ordered their nationals to evacuate last month citing fears of terrorist attacks in revenge for France’s military intervention in Mali to rout Islamist rebels in the north.

Abdel-Aziz had earlier said a spillover from Mali’s crisis could undermine security in Libya, with weapons and foreign Islamist fighters flowing back to the country.

“Some uncontrolled elements are trying to exploit the situation,” he added Tuesday.

Benghazi is the cradle of the uprising that toppled dictator Gadhafi in 2011 but also the city where a United States ambassador was killed in an attack in September.

Abdel-Aziz said the situation in Benghazi was a legacy of Gadhafi’s rule: “Benghazi and the east were very much marginalized. The same paradox exists in the south that also produced some kind of extremism.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 13, 2013, on page 9.

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