Libya conference underway as Gaddafi vows to fight on
A key conference on the future of Libya got underway Thursday in Paris, with leaders from 60 countries and international organizations set to discuss how to support the country's reconstruction and democratic transition, dpa reported.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron were co-hosting the Conference of Support for the New Libya, which US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, were attending.
The conference takes place on the 42nd anniversary of the military coup that brought Moamer Gaddafi to power.
The fugitive leader had a message for the conference before it started.
In an audio message broadcast on a Syrian television channel he vowed a "long battle that will set Libya on fire."
Meanwhile, the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) earlier extended by a week a Saturday deadline it had given his remaining loyalists to surrender.
The conference aims to garner the broadest possible support for the TNC, whose leaders will set out their vision for the post-Gaddafi era and appeal for help towards the country's stabilization and reconstruction.
Countries such as Russia and China, that like Germany, had opposed the military intervention that helped the rebels rout Gaddafi, also sent representatives. Russia announced Thursday it would recognize the rebels' council.
The only country to refuse an invitation was South Africa.
Ahead of the conference the council received a boost with the announcement by the European Union that it was partially lifting its freeze on the assets of 28 companies or authorities, including six harbour companies, several banks and oil and gas firms.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France had received the go-ahead from the United Nations to release 1.5 billion euros in assets frozen under a UN sanctions resolution in March. The Netherlands said it had released 2 billion euros.
The United States and Britain have already each released about 1.5 billion dollars in assets and currency. Germany has appealed for the right to release a similar amount.
Ahead of the meeting, Algeria, which is sheltering Gaddafi's wife and several family members and views the Libyan rebels with suspicion, moved to mend relations with the council.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said his country would recognize the TNC once it had formed a government "representative of all the regions of the country."
Medelci, who is participating in the talks, also denied Algeria had ever envisaged sheltering Gaddafi.