France to host 'friends of Libya' talks next week
President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday he had invited the countries he regards as "the friends of Libya" to talks in Paris on September 1 on the future of the country without Moamer Kadhafi.
After meeting the prime minister of Libya's National Transitional Council, Mahmud Jibril, Sarkozy said that, as well as countries that took part in the campaign against Kadhafi, China, Russia, India and Brazil had been invited.
"This meeting goes well beyond the contact group," he said, referring to the coalition of NATO members and allied Arab states that are carrying out air strikes or sending cash and arms to help the NTC rebels.
Sarkozy said military action would continue until the last Kadhafi loyalist lays down his weapons, and that France and its allies would stand by the NTC while it tries to create a new democratic Libyan state.
"We have decided in full agreement with David Cameron to hold a great international conference to help the free Libya of tomorrow, to show that we're passing towards the future," Sarkozy said.
In London, Prime Minister Cameron's office issued a statement saying the conference was a joint Franco-British initiative.
"This will be an opportunity for the NTC to set out how the international community can help them on the path to establishing a free, democratic and inclusive Libya," said Downing Street.
It was not clear at what level the various countries would be represented in Paris, but Sarkozy said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be there.
Jibril, the number two figure in the NTC -- the Benghazi-based rebel movement that has been recognised by many countries as the new authority in Libya -- thanked Sarkozy for his "courage" in backing the revolt.
He said September 1, Thursday next week, was a symbolic date for Libyans, as it is the anniversary of the day in 1969 when Kadhafi, then a young army colonel, seized power and launched a four decade reign of terror.
© 2011 AFP