Libyan rebels foresee 'democratic, secular' regime

23rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Representatives of the Libyan opposition's interim national council said in Paris that a post-Kadhafi regime would be "democratic and secular".

They also predicted late Tuesday that the embattled Libyan leader, who has continued to press against rebel-held towns despite a UN-backed military campaign, would fall quickly, opening the way for a rebuilding of Libyan society.

"The future Libya will be democratic and secular," said Mansour Saif Al-Nasr, an emissary, though not a member, of the interim council, based in the rebel-held stronghold of Benghazi.

"The Libyan people are a moderate people, and the state will not be led by clerics," he told a large gathering of writers, ex-ministers and reporters assembled by Bernard Henry-Levy, a French intellectual who helped facilitate France's recognition of the rebel authority.

The interim national council (INC) has 31 members, but the identities of only eight have been revealed because most still live in zones held by forces loyal to Kadhafi.

"They are mainly lawyers and professors. All regions of Libya are represented, and there are members from all the tribes," including Kadhafi's, Nasr said.

A second opposition spokesman, Ali Zeidan, said rebel forces needed military hardware to defend their positions and pressure the Kadhafi regime.

"We want the coalition to continue to destroy its military capacity," said Zeidan, the council's informal spokesman in Europe. "We have the men. What we are asking for is the arms."

Coalition forces -- led by the United States, France and Britain and including other European states along with Qatar -- have launched air strikes since Saturday, acting under a UN Security Council resolution authorising "all necessary means" to protect civilians in Libya.

Despite the limited scope of the UN mandate and lack of military hardware under rebel control, opposition leaders predicted a rapid end to Kadhafi's rule.

The conflict could be over "in 10 days if the air strikes continue with the same intensity to take out armoured cars and heavy artillery. We have enough men to march on Tripoli, we are sure of victory," Ali Zeidan said.

Rebel forces equipped mainly with small arms have succeeded in hold several towns in western Libya, he noted.

Nasr rejected the idea that Libya was in the midst of a civil war. "It's a people who are fed up after 42 years of dictatorship. There is no risk of Liyba breaking up," he said.

France was the first nation to recognise the rebel-led authority, which it did on March 10 following a meeting in Paris between INC members and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"In Libya, now they say, 'One, Two, Three, merci Sarkozy'," said Nasr.

Britain quickly followed suit, identifying the opposition body as its "valid interlocutor".

Looking ahead, both men foresee the formation of a committee to write a new constitution. There is no shortage of qualified people to participate, within Libya and abroad, he said.

There are some 30,000 Libyans with doctoral degrees living in Europe, the United States or in the Gulf region, he indicated.

© 2011 AFP

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