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10.12.2011 Libya

Libyan rulers ready to forgive Kadhafi fighters

By Jay Deshmukh
Libyan National Transitional Council fighters escort a pro-Kadhafi fighter (centre) in Sirte.  By Philippe Desmazes (AFP/File)
LISTEN DEC 10, 2011
Libyan National Transitional Council fighters escort a pro-Kadhafi fighter (centre) in Sirte. By Philippe Desmazes (AFP/File)

TRIPOLI (AFP) - Libya's new rulers said on Saturday they are ready to forgive the forces of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi who battled rebels trying to topple his autocratic regime during the brutal revolution.

"In Libya we are able to absorb all. Libya is for all," the National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in Tripoli as he launched a national reconciliation conference organised by the NTC.

"Despite what the army of the oppressor did to our cities and our villages, our brothers who fought against the rebels as the army of Kadhafi, we are ready to forgive them," he said in Arabic remarks that were translated into English by an official.

"We are able to forgive and tolerate," he added.

The conference, the first of its kind since the NTC on October 23 declared the total liberation of Libya, was attended by delegates from the major Libyan tribes, as well as from Qatar and Tunisia.

Libya's new interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib echoed Abdel Jalil.

"National reconciliation is an essential condition to build the constitutional institutions of a state," he told the conference.

"The future cannot be built with revenge as a base."

But he said that those who "committed torture, rape, murders and stole public wealth (during the revolution) have to be held accountable."

"Transitional justice is needed in order to reach reconciliation," Kib said.

The Hague-based International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in June that the court's investigators had evidence that Kadhafi ordered mass rapes and bought containers of sex drugs for troops to attack women during the revolt against him.

Kib announced his government on November 22, just a month after the capture and lynching of Kadhafi who ruled the country with an iron fist for 42 years.

A statement issued last month said the new government will help efforts by the NTC "to achieve national reconciliation" in Libya.

It will also strive to rebuild the army and the security forces and promote "the integration of interested citizens into these institutions," said the statement.

Meanwhile Kib's government is under heavy pressure to disarm hundreds of former rebels who toppled Kadhafi's regime and who are now enforcing security on the streets.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after the death of Kadhafi on October 20 that for the transitional authorities in Libya "inclusion and pluralism must be the watchwords," urging all sides to avoid revenge attacks.

Observers and human rights group have said that Libya's new rulers will have to come up with firm plans to win the trust of residents of towns such as Bani Walid and Sirte, former strongholds of Kadhafi.

"National reconciliation is extremely important... it is an issue in Bani Walid," Mahmud Warfalli, member of Libya's powerful Warfalla tribe and spokesman of the Bani Walid local council, told AFP on the sidelines of the conference.

The town, just 170 kilometres (105 miles) from the capital Tripoli, epitomises the problems the NTC must resolve, as several of its residents have often expressed desire for revenge after their homes were looted and pillaged by former rebels who ousted Kadhafi.

But staunch supporters of the new rulers said the whole of Libya needed to be rebuilt and not just Bani Walid or Kadhafi's hometown Sirte.

"We have to rebuild Misrata, Ajdabiya, Zintan... all the cities... Sirte is just one of them. We have to be fair towards everybody," said Ali Sallabi, an influential Islamist leader who funded and armed anti-Kadhafi fighters during the rebellion.

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