WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to attend international talks in Paris on Thursday aimed at helping Libyan rebels form an interim government and prepare for democracy, officials said Monday.
Clinton's participation in what has been dubbed the “friends of Libya”conference comes as the rebels struggle on the ground to consolidate their gains after overrunning Moamer Kadhafi's forces in Tripoli last week.
The conference, broader than the preceding “Libya Contact Group” meetings, will hear a report from the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) on its needs for a new Libya, Clinton spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
These needs will be in the areas of governance, security, humanitarian relief, and economic reconstruction, Nuland told reporters.
Participants will discuss “how we can all play our part to support those efforts, including through the UN structures,” she added.
The meeting “will provide the international community with an opportunity to further coordinate our financial and political support for” the NTC, she said.
In a sign of how quickly events in the six-month uprising are starting to unfold, Washington, like many other capitals, only last month recognized the NTC as the legitimate interim governing authority in Libya.
The move paved the way for Washington to win the release last week of dollar 1.5 billion dollars in US-based Libyan assets that had been frozen under a UN Security Council resolution protesting Qadhafi's deadly crackdown on protests.
Only a fraction of the dollar 30 billion dollars in US-based frozen assets, the money will pay for UN programs, energy bills, health, education and food.
The move raised Washington's profile after it had ceded to France and Britain the lead in the NATO air campaign that was launched in March against Qadhafi's forces.
Nuland indicated further financial and political support will be coming, based on coordination involving the international community and the NTC, which Washington wants to make an orderly and inclusive transition.
“The days and weeks ahead will be critical for the Libyan people, and the United States and its partners will continue to move quickly and decisively to help the (NTC) and address the needs of the Libyan people,” she said.
“Libya's transition to democracy is and should be Libyan-led, with close coordination and support between the (NTC) and its international partners,” Nuland added.
Nuland said the Paris talks will build on those held last week in Istanbul, where the 28 countries and seven international bodies of the “Libya Contact Group” took measures to unblock around 2.5 billion dollars in funds.
The rebels say they need $5 billion urgently.
With funds starting to flow, top officials from some 50 countries who have been invited to Paris are also set to discuss other practical steps to support the NTC, such as donor funding, food and fuel supplies, and police training.
Nuland said last Thursday that Washington is ready to offer unspecified aid to help Libyan rebels deploy police in the country once Qadhafi's regime is fully defeated, adding the rebels suggested they might need such help.
She said the international community is itself transitioning itself from a body that supported an opposition coalition into a “friends of Libya” group that boosts an emerging democratic Libya over “the long haul.”
It plays a support role as “Libya sets about restoring order, restoring services, taking care of the humanitarian needs of its people, and beginning to transform itself into first an interim government and then prepare for a new constitution, elections, et cetera,” she said.