Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon, everyone. I’ve just gotten back from Tripoli where I had a chance to see firsthand the really remarkable progress that the people of Libya have made in just over a few months. February seems like a long time ago. Those of you who remember the emotional Security Council session in which the then Libyan Ambassador Shalgham plead for the UN to take action to save the lives of innocents would really be taken aback by the remarkable courage and resolve of the Libyan people that I saw today on display on the ground, and the great progress that’s been made.
One of the reasons I wanted to go to Libya was to demonstrate to the Libyan people that the United States recognizes and appreciates the enormous sacrifices they’ve made in the cause of their freedom. And it was remarkably inspiring. And the United States will stand by the people of Libya as they seek to build their country back from scratch.
I want also to emphasize the importance of a transition to democracy that’s just and inclusive for all the people of Libya. We were heartened to hear that the TNC plans to announce its new interim government tomorrow and were encouraged by the positive statements we’ve heard related to forming it in an inclusive fashion that will focus on improving security, revitalizing Libya’s economy, ensuring transparency, accountability, and the rule of law, and also of course protecting and respecting human rights. I had the opportunity to meet with the TNC Chairman Jalil and the new Prime Minister Al-Keeb today and many of their colleagues to reinforce these points and I must say I was encouraged by my conversation.
I also went to Libya to emphasize the vital role of the United Nations. Months after the Security Council bore its responsibility to protect civilians by adopting Resolutions 1970 and 1973, Libya will again be relying on the United Nations to provide much needed expertise and assistance. I had the opportunity this afternoon to meet with Ian Martin, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, and to discuss the ways that the mission there called UNSMIL will support Libya’s rebuilding process. Well done advance planning on the part of the UN allowed its mission to deploy very rapidly as the regime was collapsing, and going forward its work will be crucial in supporting Libya’s first elections in the months ahead.
And finally, I just wanted to mention two additional very sobering visits I made today. In the morning, I went to the site of a mass grave in Tripoli, just adjacent to the Khamis 32nd Brigade headquarters. And then later in the afternoon I visited a sort of squatters camp for African workers, migrant workers, who have been displaced from their houses, traumatized, beaten, robbed, abused during the course of the violence. The camp is in a place called Sidi Bilal and hundreds of Africans—mainly West Africans from Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and elsewhere—were living in squalor and facing really uncertain prospects, whether they would be able to return home, which many of them hoped to do, or get the proper papers to be able to work again in Libya, which was the wish of another set. So while we’ve seen really promising signs of progress, there are nonetheless reminders everywhere of Libya’s violent past in its remaining challenges including the crucial importance of protecting the rights of every Libyan and every person in Libya, regardless of their background or nationality. I want to just mention what I’m doing next. I will make one other stop tomorrow, which I’m not, for security reasons, able to describe in any depth but if you’re interested you can speak to Mark Kornblau who can give you on an embargoed basis the sense of what that will entail.
Then on Wednesday…Tuesday night late and Wednesday, I will be arriving in Rwanda, where I’ll have the opportunity for the first time in a while to review the situation there 17 years after the Rwandan genocide, and really to have the chance to see government, business, community, and civil society leaders who are living in the midst of truly astonishing change. Rwanda also has made extraordinary promise—progress—out of the rubble, in terms of women’s empowerment, economic development, agriculture and manufacturing, and while there’re real issues that remain with respect to democracy and with respect for human rights I will look forward to the opportunity to assess the progress that’s been made in Rwanda. And while I’m there I’ll have the chance to visit a variety of rural agriculture and other economic development sites--health clinics and the ecotourism industry—and to see how the people of Rwanda have really turned their country around. And finally on Wednesday I’ll give a speech at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. So with that, let me take a few questions. Mark.
Moderator: Thank you. To ask a question at this time again please press *1, unmute your phone, and record your name and affiliation when prompted. To withdraw your request you may request * then 2. Our first question will come from Dimitri Zlodorev with Itar-Tass.
Reporter: Hello, my name is Dimitri Zlodorev with Itar-Tass news agency of Russia. My question is how you would characterize position of reconciliation on Libya and how you would characterize Russian-American cooperation on this direction? Thank you.
Ambassador Rice: Well I think it’s probably better to ask Russia to characterize its position on Libya. It has obviously evolved. We note that Russia did not oppose Security Council Resolution 1973. And while it was at times critical of NATO’s action, it nonetheless understood and expressed the need for Qadhafi to go and has, I think, in the wake of the transformation of the country and the new government, begun to look at ways to support Libya’s development primarily through the United Nations but in a constructive fashion. And Russia and we have cooperated among other things on shared concern, which was probably shared in the international community, about the risk of the proliferation of conventional and chemical weapons. And we worked with Russia in the Council to adopt Resolution 2017 to address that question.
Moderator: Next question will come from Flavia Jackson with Bloomberg.
Reporter: Yes hi, I was wondering whether you’ve had the opportunity to meet with Abdelhakim Belhadj and whether you had any concerns about him becoming Defense Minister, given his past?
Ambassador Rice: I have not, I did not have the opportunity to meet with him. My time on the ground was crammed and I didn’t have that opportunity. But I do think we are looking very much forward to the Libyans forming an inclusive and representative government. And we’ve discussed that at length in our meetings with both Chairman Jalil and Prime Minister Al-Keeb. We stressed also the importance that we and many attached to that inclusiveness and representativeness reflecting the regional as well as ethnic and gender diversity of the country and I certainly hope that there will be more than one female in the new government. I don’t want to speculate about any particular assignment going to any particular individual, but clearly the challenge of consolidating control over the militia is one that’s top of mind among the leaders I met with in Tripoli and certainly something that we that we think is important to address, not only through the government formation process but also through active and well-supported demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants and the opportunity to integrate those who warrant integration into a national army and national police force.
Moderator: Next question will come from Anita Snow with Associated Press.
Reporter: Hi Ambassador Rice.
Ambassador Rice: Hi Anita.
Reporter: I was wondering if you had the opportunity to talk to the NTC officials about the judicial process for Qaddafi’s son and intelligence chief and whether you feel confident that they will be kept safe until they are tried and whether you have an opinion about whether they should be tried by the ICC?
Ambassador Rice: Thank you, Anita. Yes, of course, that did come up in both meetings and it’s on top of many people’s minds and certainly an issue we’re focused on. First of all, let me say this: the TNC Chairman Jalil made a point of saying he could not confirm that Senussi was in custody. So that’s the latest information I have and I will operate on that basis in answering the question. With respect to Saif al-Islam, the TNC has verified and is ensuring that he is safe, that he is being well treated, and they express repeatedly their determination to ensure that that remain the case. They are also deeply committed to a transparent and independent process to hold him accountable. The Special Prosecutor of the ICC Ocampo will be arriving in Libya perhaps as soon as tomorrow and there will be discussions and consultations between the officials in Tripoli and Ocampo about how they can work together to ensure that the processes set up meet the expectations of the Libyan people as well as the regular standards of accountability setup by the international community.
Moderator: Next question is from Talal Alhaj from Al Arabiya news channel.
Reporter: Hi this is Talal Alhaj from Al Arabiya. Thank you Ambassador Rice. My question actually was asked by Anita but I have another question concerning the collections of arms. Was the subject raised with the Libyan leaders? There are so many arms floating around Libya and also filtering towards neighboring countries? Thank you.
Ambassador Rice: Yes, thanks Talal. It did come up indeed in my discussions. The leadership is well aware of really two types of challenges. One is the proliferation of weapons that were in the hands of those engaged in the revolution and as part of the demobilization and reintegration process which they have a very detailed plan for obviously recouping those weapons is an important part of the challenge. The government is looking at ways to support further education including higher education, vocational training for many of the ex-combatants as well as integrating those that wish it and are appropriately skilled into the national army and the national police force. The other set of weapons. Those that were in the former Qaddafi stock piles are among those that are of real interest to the new Libyan government as well as the United States and others in the international community. We discussed our cooperation to assist the Libyan authorities in identifying stock piles, tracking them, and ensuring that, to the maximum extent possible, they are not flipping into the wrong hands or across borders.
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