Tripoli, 31 January, 2013:
British Prime minister David Cameron has pledged to supply further help to Libya to help its security forces and police beef up security.
Speaking with Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at a press conference today during a surprise flying visit to Tripoli, Cameron said that Libya was at a “critical stage”. He emphasised: “We have not come to say what has to be done. We will be guided by what you, the Libyans, want.” He said that the UK could provide advice and assistance and technical help with the army, navy, air force and security.
Cameron continued that he had had “honest discussions” with the Libyan Prime minister which had ended in agreement that the UK should provide a further package of military training and also send police advisers.
After welcoming the British leader, Zeidan paid tribute to the UK for its past involvement in Libya , starying with its support for the Senussi forces during the Second World War. “The British were partners with us in creating Libya’s institutions during the time of the Kingdom, many of which are still operating to this day.” Britain had also helped create Libya’s security forces in the time of the king.
Comparing Libya’s present challenges with the time of the monarchy, Zeidan recalled that King Idris had once said: “Preserving independence is harder than getting it”. He said, however, that those who were trying to undermine the revolution would not succeed.
Cameron was asked if he felt that the UK’s intervention in favour of the revolution had unleashed forces far worse than Qaddafi. He answered that the idea that the Arab Spring was part of the problem was entirely wrong. It is part of the answer, not the problem.
No one would ever forget the damage that Qaddafi had done to the Libyans and to the British. Qaddafi had been responsible for blowing the PanAm flight over Lockerbie, for the killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher and for giving Semtex explosives to the IRA for use in their bombing campaigns.
Cameron added that he had agreed with the prime minister that a team from Dumfries and Galloway police would shortly be coming to Libya to investigate further into the Lockerbie bombing. British police are still also probing the 1984 shooting of woman police officer Yvonne Fletcher outside Libya’s London embassy.
Zeidan said that he was in London at the time and but had arrived late for the anti-Qaddafi demonstration that WPC Fletcher was policing. Otherwise, he reflected, he might have been injured by the gunfire from the embassy.
Zeidan was asked what he thought of last week’s urgent advice from London for British citizens to quit Benghazi. He reacted that the security situation in the city was in hand, but that what the British and other countries had done was precautionary. He added that the presence of the British premier in the country showed that security was not that bad. Cameron said: “There are security challenges in Libya, but the answer is not to stay away” but to come and work on them.
After his meeting with Zeidan, Cameron went on to see the President of the General National Congress, Mohamed Magarief, where the issue of border security was discussed.
Before meeting the prime minister, Cameron, who had flown in from Algiers, was driven in a 16-car convoy to the police academy where he was greeted by a bagpipe band and shouts of “Allahu Akbar”. In a brief speech he told trainees: “There is no real freedom, no real democracy, no real chance of prosperity without proper security. There is no real freedom without honour and honesty. The most important pledge you make is to uphold the law and fight corruption.” The new Libya, he said, would have no greater friend than the United Kingdom. “We will stand with you every step of the way.”
He then went to Martyrs Square where he had a 15-minute walkabout talking to members of the public, among whom he met Dr Mervat Mhani, a key activist in the Free Generation Movement who is now head of International Relations at the Ministry of Martyrs and the Missing and Abdul Rahman Al Ageli, co-founder and vice-president of the Libyan Youth Forum.
After meeting with Maragief, Cameron flew off for an aid meeting in Liberia.