"Abandoned" Libya risks extremist slide, former premier warns

"Abandoned" Libya risks extremist slide, former premier warns

Libya has been "abandoned" by the international community and risks being taken over by Islamist extremists, the man who fronted the opposition to Moamer Gaddafi during the NATO campaign warned Saturday, dpa reported.

Mahmoud Jibril - who, as a former chair of the National Transitional Council and head of its international affairs has been described as Libya's de facto prime minister and foreign minister - spoke at the Brussels Forum, an annual think tank event.

"The moment the (Gaddafi) regime was down, everybody disappeared from the scene" except the intelligence services, Jibril said.

"It is a tragic mistake, it is a fatal mistake to abandon Libya now because Libya is in a political and security vacuum, and vacuums do not remain vacuums, extremism might spread at any moment," he insisted.

"I am afraid that early indicators are there right now."

Jibril - who in late October was replaced by Abdel-Rahim Al-Keeb - acknowledged help from the European Union, but said it was misaligned with government priorities of disarming militias and preparing for free elections in June.

"When you provide us with a different assistance, such as empowering women, we appreciate that, but it will not be felt because it will not touch the real nerve, so people will feel that they have been abandoned," he said.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who was also present at the event, defended herself.

"I disagree that we have abandoned Libya," she said. "It's never fast enough, and there is no doubt that we can do more and we can do better, but the commitment is absolutely there."

On Friday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was asked at the Brussels Forum whether the Western military alliance felt "any responsibility" to help reconstruct Libya, after playing a decisive role in bringing down its former regime.

"When it comes to the post-conflict phase, I think it's primarily a responsibility for the United Nations, helped by international organizations, to assist the new authorities in Libya," he replied.

But, "if requested from the Libyan authorities," NATO is "ready to help" with reforming the security and defence sector, Rasmussen said.

Jibril also talked about Syria - which is commonly compared to Libya. Foreign intervention there is unlikely "simply because of the sensitivity of (a) region" comprising "Israel, Iran, Hezbollah," he said.

But he was optimistic that the year-long insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad would eventually succeed, provided that opposition groups unite and a "single command and control" is established for the Syrian Free Army.

"There was never a case in the history of humankind where a regular army managed to defeat a guerrilla," he noted. "The Syrian revolution, in my opinion, is irreversible, but (...) it is going to be more painful that the Libyan case."

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