Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya: Benghazi Welcomes Nicolas Sarkozy

Tripoli — Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Libya Tuesday (March 19th) for an unofficial visit marking the two year anniversary of the NATO intervention against Kadhafi.

Operation Odyssey Dawn kicked off March 19th, 2011 when the French fighter planes attacked four of Kadhafi's tanks that were heading towards Benghazi.

Tripoli local council chief Sadat al-Badri said Sarkozy's trip followed an invitation from the council last year.

Sarkozy and his former foreign minister Alain Juppe also met with Libya's interim Prime Minister Ali Zidan before heading to Benghazi to attended celebrations marking the holiday.

Zidan recalled that as massive forces of the Kadhafi regime lined up for to destroy the city. Sarkozy decided to help protect Benghazi.

"On this occasion, I would like to thank President Sarkozy for this visit," Zidan said. "I would also like to thank our pilots."

"They were very brave. Using aircraft that had limited capabilities and low ammunition, they managed to stop the progress of those forces until the allied forces resolved the matter," the minister added.

For his part, Sarkozy asked Zidan to express his appreciation to the people of Benghazi for their warm welcome.

"We thank Sarkozy and his country, since France was the first to recognize the transitional council and the first to use its fighter planes to attack Kadhafi's column," commented Radhwan al-Busifi, an engineer.

Ahmed Abdul Fattah, a young man, said: "Sarkozy's visit to Libya confirms the strong relations between the two countries. Sarkozy has done a great service to the Libyan people by backing their rights and protecting them. Thank you Sarkozy!"

Sarkozy's trip came amid tight security in Tripoli as the General National Congress (GNC) approved the new national budget.

For the first time, Zidan held a press conference outside the heavily guarded cabinet headquarters.

"The government won't be broken and will only give in to the will of Libyans through ballot boxes, legitimacy of GNC, and through dialogue with citizens and all political parties," Zidan said. He also said that the building of the state, respect for laws and the will of people were important issues.

Zidan said that raids on hideouts of illegal armed militias in Tripoli have succeeded. Meanwhile, he asked local councils and citizens to take over these sites and protect them until the state decides about them.

"We will proceed with that for the rule of law and order," he said.

GNC spokesman Omar Hamidan pointed to a proposal submitted by 21 legislators for the moving of illegal brigades, and even legal brigades, to outside Tripoli.

"No armed formations or arms would be allowed into town so the government can implement its programme," he said.

He urged the Libyan people to support the government so it could implement its development programme. "Yes, to the state of law. We won't accept any raids or attacks on state institutions because we insist on building a state of justice and law in Libya," said Mohamed Chaouch, a student at the Faculty of Medical Technology.

"We won't resort to violence because we want our future generations to live in peace and happiness," he added.

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