Australia extends a helping hand to Libya.
LIBYA'S fledgling interim government, still battling to convince tens of thousands of former rebel soldiers to disarm and leave the capital, would receive assistance from Australia for the enormous task of clearing a country awash with weapons, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, said.
Fresh from a flying visit to Tripoli where he ''hauled the Australian flag up the pole at the Australian consul-general's residence to show we are back in business in Libya'', Mr Rudd said the challenge went much further than de-mining.
''There is unexploded ordnance lying around the place from the civil war, as well as ammunitions caches,'' he said. ''We have provided an additional $2 million in funding, otherwise that [United Nations] de-mining operation would have ground to a halt as of January 15.''
After peaceful protests in Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, and a threat by the capital's council to lock down the city if militia groups refused to leave, the government announced a two-week deadline for militias to depart. ''This [disarming] is a much more complex issue than it may sound,'' the Prime Minister, Abdul Raheem al-Keeb, said after talks with Mr Rudd.
Dr Keeb said his government was holding talks with militias and had a ''solid and detailed program'' to rehabilitate the many former rebels.
But it is not just militias or unexploded ordinance that are challenging the new government, formed only two weeks ago following the capture and death of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi on October 20.
Under its timetable, elections will be held by mid-2012, requiring an entire electoral system to be built almost from scratch. Mr Rudd said he had told Dr Keeb that Australia would also help Libya, via the United Nations Development Program, to formulate a structure for democratic elections, and support for health, education and agricultural programs.
Mr Rudd said Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, who was captured last month, must be tried within the framework of the International Criminal Court, whether in Libya or The Hague.
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