Norway promises support for Libya

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has promised support for Libya’s transition to a “united and democratic” country following the death of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday. The support, however, won’t be without conditions.

“We expect (Libya’s) National Transitional Council to respect international law and humanitarian law in its further efforts to ensure national unity,” Støre said. He added that Norway will contribute towards its work for reconciliation and rebuilding after months of civil war and decades of Gadhafi’s dictatorial rule.

Støre called the death of Gadhafi “an historic turning point” for Libya. He stressed that Gadhafi’s “reluctance to engage in a dialogue with his own people” had led to the lengthy and bloody conflict and “great suffering among the civilian population.”

He hoped for a Libyan declaration of liberation that would provide the foundation for a transitional government and national elections in the near future. Norway’s support, Støre indicated, would hinge on evidence of a “broad and inclusive” process that would build a new democratic state in Libya.

Praise from Obama
Norway was among nations taking part in the UN-backed and NATO-led military operation that aimed to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi’s forces. It involved repeated bombing strikes last spring and early summer, which prompted statements of praise and appreciation from US President Barack Obama when he met Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg for bilateral talks between the US and Norway at the White House on Thursday.

Obama said he wanted to begin their meeting “by thanking the people of Norway, the Norwegian military and the Prime Minister for their leadership in helping to give Libya an opportunity to become a democracy.” Part of the reason the NATO mission was “so effective,” Obama said, “was because of NATO partners like Norway.

“I’ve said this before but I want to repeat: Norway punches above its weight,” Obama said, referring to Norway’s involvement in international affairs despite being a small country. Norway’s “participation in the humanitarian mission, protecting civilians, the capacity of Norwegian pilots, their willingness to engage in some very critical missions there, made an enormous difference” in Libya, Obama said.

Norway has its own interests in mind as well, however, with large Norwegian companies such as Statoil and fertilizer and chemical company Yara having operations in Libya that were hit by the brutal conflict in the country over the past year. The future of the business interests remained unclear this week but there’s little doubt Norwegian executives and government leaders will work to preserve and enhance their investments in Libya as the country’s new ruling system emerges.

Norway is also in a position to offer advice and assistance on how to best manage Libya’s oil wealth and build democratic systems. As Støre and others have mentioned, Libya is not a poor country, and the world will be watching how it deals with its newfound opportunity for freedom.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund