Clinton hails 'Libya's victory' on Tripoli visit

Secretary of state is the most senior US official to visit since Gaddafi's rule ended; Clinton urges creation of unified military.

Clinton in Libya peace sign_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Clinton in Libya peace sign_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
TRIPOLI/SIRTE, Libya  - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed "Libya's victory" during a visit to Tripoli but fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi were still holding out in his home town, underscoring the challenges facing the country's new leaders.
Clinton is the most senior US official to come to Tripoli since Gaddafi's 42-year rule ended in August. Her visit was marked by tight security, reflecting worries that Libya's new rulers have yet to establish full control over the country.
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After meeting Libya's de facto prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, she spoke of the need to bring the powerful and heavily-armed regional militias that emerged from the war to oust Gaddafi under central rule.
"We are encouraged by the commitment of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to take the steps necessary to bring the country together," Clinton said.
"From long experience one factor we know has to happen ... is unifying the various militias into a single military ... Getting a national army under civilian command is essential."
Though the militias express loyalty to the new government, many analysts see them as the biggest threat to Libya's unity.
The United States took part in the NATO bombing campaign that helped Libya's rebels take power, although its aircraft largely played a secondary role to those of Britain and France.
"I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Tripoli and on behalf of the American people I congratulate Libya," Clinton said. "This is Libya's moment, this is Libya's victory, the future belongs to you."
NATO reiterated on Tuesday that its mission was very close to an end but said it was premature to set a timetable for a conclusion of its operations, which alliance officials expect to be announced in coming weeks.
"We are very close to the end, but there are still threats to the civilian population. And as long as these threats persist, we will continue," spokeswoman Carmen Romero told a regular briefing.