UN plan for military presence in Libya rejected by NTC

Offer by United Nations of foreign armed forces to help maintain security turned down by Libya's by the National Transitional Council.

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BENGHAZI // Libya's new government will welcome hundreds of United Nations personnel, but not armed forces to help maintain security.

The shunning of foreign troops to help maintain security was announced by the National Transitional Council (NTC) yesterday.

"There will be technical people and observers that would come to help with the transition," said Shamsiddin Ben Ali, the NTC spokesman in Benghazi.

"As long as that is the case, there will not be a problem."

Mr Ben Ali was responding to a leaked UN strategy plan for assisting Libya's transition to a peaceful democracy.

The report, written by Ian Black, the UN's special adviser on post-conflict planning in Libya, outlined a proposal to dispatch 200 unarmed military observers and 190 UN police to help the transitional government.

The document, leaked to the New York publication Inner City Press, gave the first broad outlines of plans for rebuilding Libya as it creates new institutions, sets up elections and tries to restore normality after more than six months of clashes between rebels and Col Muammar Qaddafi's forces.

It warns that "one of the challenges in the public order field will be the existence of various military or paramilitary formations under not always clear and solid command and control arrangements".

But if the situation destabilises to the point where "transitional authorities seek more robust international assistance, this is beyond the capacity of the UN".

Mr Black wrote in the report that the UN mandate to Nato would allow foreign forces to protect civilians who came under attack.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the head of the NTC, said on Saturday that the new government might call upon Arab and Islamic countries to "provide a limited force to assist with security". But the hope was that the rebels could handle security for now.

"Our revolutionaries in Tripoli have proven themselves strong and valuable and having a great capability in organising and managing battles. We count upon them to manage daily life effectively," he said.

With reports of sporadic fighting in Tripoli, there were fears among officials that the fight to maintain security would take longer than the few weeks they had hoped would be enough.

Mr Ben Ali said the situation was still too dangerous for UN staff to begin arriving en masse. "It's still fluid on the ground," he said.

Looming over the reconstruction discussions in Libya are the consequences of poor planning in post-war Iraq that has led to years of instability, economic stagnation and a deeply divided society.

Aid workers and advisers have been warning against ostracising the swathe of society that had been loyal to Col Qaddafi.

The exclusion of Baathists, including soldiers and officials, from the rebuilding process in Iraq sparked a powerful insurgency that the Iraqi government is still trying to end.

NTC officials have complained that the interim government's efforts to restore security could be hampered by the slow release of Libya's assets overseas.

More than $150 billion (Dh551bn) was frozen by countries to put pressure on Col Qaddafi in the early phase of the rebellion. The UN has released about $1.5bn but it has yet to arrive in Libyan hands.

Mr Jalil said on Saturday that the NTC was unable to pay police salaries without the funds.

The leaked UN report also covered plans to assist Libya with guidance on elections and drawing up a new constitution, as well as restarting its economy.

The focus of a UN special representative to Libya would be to help the NTC establish "their credibility as inclusive, transparent and accountable, and committed to a democratic transition to representative institutions".