Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow by a multilateral coalition is an example of the new international diplomacy in action, U.S. President Barack Obama said today, as he welcomed Libya’s new government to the United Nations and called on the deposed leader’s supporters to cease fighting.
“Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one,” Obama told the United Nations. “We cannot and should not intervene every time there’s an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world should have and could have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale.”
His administration recently announced a new Presidential Directive on Mass Atrocities, declaring the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide as a “core national security interest” of the United States.
Obama cautioned that the legacy of authoritarian rule would inevitably impede or slow down democratization and called on Libyans to show patience during the transition process.
“After decades of iron rule by one man, it will take time to build the institutions needed for a democratic Libya. There will be days of frustration,” he said. “
Interim government leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil reassured the states gathered at the U.N. that he will pursue reconciliation and has specifically prohibited retribution against Gaddafi supporters.
“The Libyan authorities will bring to justice all accused of the Gaddafi’s regime before a just trial and we will work for the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation over the coming period,” he said.
Jalil vowed that Libya would be a “vibrant” democracy, but his administration continues to face questions about whether they can unify a country divided on tribal, regional and ideological lines.
Influential Islamist cleric Ali Salabi is stridently critical of the interim government’s secular technocrats. His objections are “not against the secularists, but against those who served the old regime,” said George Joffe, a Libya expert at Cambridge University.