17 December 2012

Libya: Zidan Discusses Diplomatic Tour

Tripoli — Libya's recent talks with neighbours focused on border security.

Interim Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan returned home Friday (December 14th) following a whirlwind diplomatic tour that took him to Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan.

According to Zidan, the visit primarily focused on security and sending a message to all countries that Libya today is "a country of good neighbourhood relations, close ties and is no longer a source of worry or disturbance for neighbours".

The new head of government was accompanied by Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz, Libyan Army Chief of Staff Youssef al-Mangoush, intelligence chief Salem al-Hassi and a number of other security officials.

Zidan reassured Libya's neighbours that "the revolution wouldn't be exported" and that Libya "would seek positive co-operation with neighbouring countries and other world countries and wouldn't cause any disturbances overseas". He added that Libya needed to work at home by increasing security and bolstering the economy.

In relations with neighbours and the international community, Libya will return to its good relations prior to 1969, according to Zidan.

Zidan added that security in the greater Sahara would be enhanced by the stepped up co-operation.

"This is an issue of concern to all of us. We've agreed on the need to control borders. Algeria said that it would control borders with Mali and with Libya," Zidan said.

He noted that Niger also started to patrol its border and that some infiltrators were recently arrested.

"We will sign quadripartite agreement to protect borders, and joint patrols are already running on the Libyan-Sudanese border. We saw how the Sudanese started to control the border. As to our relations with Algeria, three-fourths of these relations have a security dimension," he added.

As to southern Libya's complaint about border control, Zidan said that he agreed with the army's chief of staff that any convoys traveling outside designated roads in the south would be dealt with whether from air or land if they did not obey orders.

Libya's General National Congress closed the southern borders on Sunday (December 16th) and declared martial law in the country's frontier provinces.

"We agreed to have a quadripartite committee to agree on a host of security agreements on the border security, arms trade, drug and human trafficking and movements of extremist groups," Zidan said.

He noted that there was co-operation with Sudan and Algeria in training Libyan army and security forces. Algeria also plans to send instructors and will refurbish equipment while Sudan has loaned planes and is currently training 540 Libyans.

As to the security situation with Tunisia, Zidan said that he was always in contact with Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

"Our priority now is our southern border because it is the primary source for concern in view of what's taking place in Mali. The Libyan desert has become a transit point for arms, drugs and humans. We have to completely control it."

As to the extradition of Kadhafi's loyalists and family members, Zidan said that official requests were sent to Algeria and Niger.

"Extradition procedures take time. There is also the International Criminal Court, and there are other issues related to foreign countries and their laws. There are also international organisations," he added.

Zidan said security was a priority for his three-week-old government, adding that it has already started recruiting new security personnel.

"We're dealing with political affairs here, and with a crisis that came after suffering. Within two months, you'll see many procedures on the ground, and within three months, you'll see intermediate procedures," the prime minister stated.

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