EU Offers to Help Libyan Rebels Build Democratic Institutions in Post-War Era

Posted July 13th, 2011 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
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European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has offered to help Libya's rebels establish democratic institutions if they are able to defeat the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Barroso made the offer to a Libyan rebel delegation led by Mahmoud Jibril during talks in Brussels on Wednesday. The European Commission president said the EU is ready to assist the Libyan rebels in organizing elections, creating an effective judiciary and organizing civil society and a free media.

Barroso also praised Jibril's visit as a sign of growing authority and international credibility of the rebels' political body, the Transitional National Council. Earlier in Brussels, Jibril won a diplomatic boost from the foreign ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, who said they recognize the rebels as the “legitimate representatives” of the Libyan people.

Jibril also met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said the alliance will continue bombing Mr. Gadhafi's forces as long as they keep threatening Libyan civilians. Rasmussen said the Libyan leader has “lost all legitimacy” and must leave power as part of a “political solution” to the five-month rebellion against his 42-year rule.

NATO forces have been carrying out airstrikes on Mr. Gadhafi's security forces since March under a United Nations Security Council mandate to use force to protect Libyan civilians from government attack.

Rebels in Libya's Western mountains suffered a military setback Wednesday, when government forces retook a strategic village on the road to the Libyan capital, Tripoli — Mr. Gadhafi's stronghold. The rebels fled Al-Qawalish after coming under rocket and mortar fire, giving up ground they had won the previous week. But fighting continued on the village's outskirts.

Rebels in western Libya also faced criticism from a U.S.-based rights group that accused them of damaging property, looting hospitals and homes, and assaulting Gadhafi loyalists in rebel-held towns.

Human Rights Watch called on the rebels to protect civilians and hold their fighters accountable for the alleged abuses. It said a rebel commander confirmed that abuses had taken place and that some people were punished for the incidents.

The rights group said it also has documented “repeated” attacks by Libyan government forces on civilians in some western areas in the past two months.

Jibril said Wednesday the rebels have had no negotiations with the government of Mr. Gadhafi, whom they want to leave power before they end their revolt. He also said the rebels have not seen any coherent or comprehensive political initiative to resolve the crisis.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday NATO members have had contact with Gadhafi emissaries who reported a willingness by the Libyan leader to give up power. But Juppe said the contacts do not constitute full-fledged negotiations.