Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • Europe launches navigation satellites to rival GPS

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • Iraqi Sunnis quit govt talks after mosque massacre

    Read more

  • US demands Russia withdraw aid convoy from Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rights group sues US government over ‘deportation mill’

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • US National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Missouri town

    Read more

  • Fed Chair says US job market still hampered by Great Recession

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Central African Republic announces coalition cabinet

    Read more

  • Hamas publicly executes "informers"

    Read more

  • French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu set to be Erdogan's new PM

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

Africa

Sarkozy, Cameron cheered in Benghazi, NTC troops in Sirte

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-16

As forces loyal to Libya’s National Transitional Council were reported to have stormed Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown Sirte, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron were treated to a "rock star's welcome" in Benghazi.

REUTERS - The leaders of France and Britain were feted in Libya for their support of the uprising which overthrew Muammar Gaddafi while forces of the new government closed in on his hometown Sirte in an effort to complete their victory.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose air forces helped end Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, flew in to Tripoli to be told their support may be repaid in business contracts with the oil-rich North African state.

Fighters loyal to the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) meanwhile attacked Gaddafi’s birthplace Sirte, 450 km east of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast, facing dermined resistance from forces still defending the ousted leader. 

“They have now entered the city. There was a coordinated push from the south, east and

west and from along the coast. I’m not sure how far they have been able to enter,” NTC military spokesman Abdulrahman Busin said.

“They are coming under heavy fire. There is a particular problem with snipers.” 
 
After nearly seven months of fighting, NTC forces backed by NATO air power control most of Libya, including oil-producing centres and the capital Tripoli, which they seized last month. 
 
They have met fierce resistance in a handful of pro-Gaddafi bastions such as Sirte, the desert town of Bani Walid and southern outpost of Sabha.
 
Gaddafi, wanted by the International Criminal Court, has also gone into hiding and is rumoured to be hiding in one of the loyalist strongholds.    
 
Liberty, equality and fraternity?
 
In Benghazi, seat of the uprising which early intervention by French and British jets helped to save from Gaddafi’s army in March, Sarkozy and Cameron were treated to a rowdy welcome on Freedom Square, shouting to be heard over a cheering crowd.
 
“It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” said Cameron as he strained to be heard above the chants in scenes from the former rebel stronghold televised live across the globe.
 
The French president, struggling for re-election next year, beamed at grateful chants of “One, two, three; Merci Sarkozy!” while the two leaders, flanking NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil, held his arms aloft like a victorious boxer.
 
“France, Great Britain, Europe, will always stand by the side of the Libyan people,” said Sarkozy, whom many Libyans credit with making a decisive gamble, pulling in a hesitant United States and securing U.N. backing for NATO air strikes to halt Gaddafi’s tanks as they closed in to crush Benghazi.
 
“Your city was an inspiration to the world as you threw off a dictator and chose freedom,” Cameron said. “Colonel Gaddafi said he would hunt you down like rats but you showed the courage of lions.”
 
Hajja, a 70-year-old swathed in the rebel tricolour, watched the two leaders with a rapture they rarely experience at home: “If we could give them anything, we would—our lives, our souls ... But for them, we would be history.”
 
Support offered
 
In Tripoli, Libyan interim premier Mahmoud Jibril spoke at a news conference of “our thanks for this historic stance” taken by France and Britain to launch the West into a war that did not always look set to end well for the rebels.
 
Both countries offered continued military support against Gaddafi loyalists holding substantial parts of Libya as well as in hunting the former strongman and others wanted for crimes against humanity.
 
Sarkozy said he would raise the issue with neighbouring Niger, a former French colony where some of Gaddafi’s senior aides and one of his sons have sought refuge.
 
“This is not over,” Cameron said. “There are still parts of Libya that are under Gaddafi’s control. Gaddafi is still at large and we must make sure that this work is completed.”
 
At the beseiged loyalist stronghold of Bani Walid, residents were still trying to flee and reporting that others were trapped by gunmen.
 
Remembering "friends"
 
Although Sarkozy denied talk among Arabs of “under the table deals for Libya’s riches”, Jalil said key allies could expect preferential treatment in return for their help in ending Gaddafi’s rule.
 
“As a faithful Muslim people,” he told reporters in Tripoli, “we will appreciate these efforts and they will have priority within a framework of transparency.”
 
Other states which did business with Gaddafi, notably China and Russia, have been concerned that their lukewarm attitude to the NTC may cost them economically. While Jalil stressed a desire to allocate contracts on the best terms for Libya, and to honour existing contracts, he said some could be reviewed.
 
The need for Sarkozy and Cameron to visit Benghazi as well as Tripoli is a sign of the obstacles Libya still faces in transforming itself into a peaceful, unified democracy. The NTC has not yet been able to establish a government safely in a capital still bristling with militiamen from disparate groups. 

 

Date created : 2011-09-16

  • LIBYA

    Sarkozy and Cameron pledge support on Tripoli visit

    Read more

  • SAHEL NATIONS

    Libya's neighbours fear 'powder keg' scenario

    Read more

  • UK - LIBYA

    Britain to probe reports of secret renditions to Libya

    Read more

COMMENT(S)