Rebels consider how to spend Gaddafi billions

LIBYA’S new leadership reaffirmed their commitment to democracy and good governance yesterday as they worked on how to spend billions of dollars they have been given from the frozen assets of fugitive strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

A day after international powers met in Paris and agreed to hand over $15 billion (€10.56bn) to the rebels who overthrew Gaddafi last week, the European Union, a key trading partner, rescinded a range of sanctions, and officials from the National Transitional Council told financiers about their rebuilding plans.

The NTC’s representative in London said that work on putting right the damage of 42 years of eccentric one-man rule and of six months of civil war should not wait until Gaddafi is found and the last bastions of armed support for him are defeated.

“As long as Tripoli, the capital, is stabilised and secure and safe, which it almost is now, and the overwhelming majority of other cities and towns, then Libyans can get on with the process of transition and stabilisation and the new political process,” Guma El-Gamaty said.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, seat of the uprising, an NTC official, speaking privately, said the release of funds by Western powers who are backing them with NATO air strikes meant the NTC now had to show Libyans it was capable of governing:

“Before we had the excuse that we didn’t have money when things went wrong,” he said. “Now we don’t have the excuse.”

Gamaty reaffirmed the council’s commitment to a document which lays out what he called a “clear roadmap” to democracy, including a constitution to be drafted within eight months, a referendum and then full elections in 2013.

“By the end of about 20 months the Libyan people will have elected the leaders they want to lead their country,” he said.

In Tripoli, residents were beginning to savour a return of normal life. A group of municipal street sweepers in high-visibility vests were picking up litter and spent bullet casings on Martyrs Square, formerly known under Gaddafi as Green Square.

NTC fighters had removed some roadblocks on a main road along the shoreline and more foodstores were open, although water supplies and power remained erratic. On a billboard, the NTC had posted a public announcement: “For A United And Free Libya.” Among other notices was one asking people not to fire in the air in celebration. Occasional volleys could still be heard.

NTC education chief Soliman el-Sahli said Libya’s schools would reopen on September 17, despite some bombed-out classrooms, scarce transport and a curriculum until this year based on Gaddafi’s personal “Green Book” — an eclectic account of the “Brother Leader’s” views of the world.

One unknown in the process of installing an elected president and parliament is when the timetable will start running. The document says the process would begin once the NTC declares Libya “liberated” from Gaddafi. Its leaders have said the war will not end until he is found “dead or alive.” So it remains uncertain when they might declare “liberation” achieved.

The NTC’s reconstruction minister, Ahmad Jihani, and Aref Nayed, a member of the council’s rebuilding team, met experts in post-conflict rebuilding from groups like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and USAID in Paris yesterday.

US and French officials said the meeting was mainly about listening to the Transitional Council’s needs.

Despite having access to some of the tens of billions of dollars Gaddafi had invested abroad, the new leaders will also need short-term aid and longer-term loans to help the North African state stave off a humanitarian crisis. In order for Libya’s new leaders to obtain aid from bodies such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, they will need to be recognised by the IMF, which says it would need such a move to be supported by its 187 members.

Libya food shortages

- LIBYA faces critical shortages of drinking water, food, fuel and medicine, the United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator for the country has said.

The six-month conflict between rebels and Muammar Gaddafi’s forces has disrupted supply lines and damaged infrastructure.

Panos Moumtzis said more than half a dozen UN agencies have returned to Tripoli to address the country’s humanitarian needs since fighting in the capital waned last week.

Monumtzis said the UN has brought in 11 million bottles of water and will bring in 600 metric tonnes of food and €100 million worth of medicine.

He said, however, that he sees the UN aid as temporary, and that he expects oil-rich Libya to be able to fund its own recovery from 2012.

Picture: Alaa Elshiekh, right, and her sister Yosev Elshiekh, celebrate the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi's regime at a rally held by women in Tripoli last evening. Picture: AP

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