Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Amid Fighting, Western Nations Move to Open Embassies in Tripoli

The U.S., Britain, France and Canada are all moving forward with plans to re-open embassies in the Libyan capital of Tripoli as the Transitional National Council moves from its provisional home in Benghazi.

As the armies of the TNC and NATO mop up resistance in the holdout cities still loyal to the hiding Moammar Gadhafi, Western allies are assessing the damage and security at their existing embassies.

"Having fully assessed the situation on the ground, Canada is prepared to re-establish its diplomatic presence and its ongoing embassy in a temporary location in Tripoli," he said. The permanent embassy building needs refurbishing following the fighting in Tripoli, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said today.

Canada's ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell, and a small staff performed the assessment of conditions in at their mission in Tripoli. Canada also announced it would release $2 billion in frozen Gadhafi assets to the TNC.

In a bizarre twist led by the right-wing media, the some in the mainstream U.S. press has tried to make a case that four military personnel who are part of an American diplomatic team in Tripoli represent "boots on the ground" in an effort to embarrass President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Instead, the Obama-bashers are demonstrating their partisanship and ignorance, since an embassy is considered the sovereign ground of the nation that owns it, and almost every embassy has a small security force on hand to protect the facility.

It almost goes without saying that the four military personnel will not be fighting the Gadhafi forces, given their responsibility to protect the U.S. diplomats. The Obama administration promised no U.SD./ troops would be on the ground as part of the NATO operations.

"When the President made his commitment no boots on the ground, that obviously had to do with entering into the fray between the Gaddafi forces and the Libyan freedom fighters and that's not what these guys are engaged in," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding an American embassy should be up and running in a matter of weeks.

The French and British were the first Western nations to return to Tripoli, with their diplomatic officials on the ground at the end of August.

In another sign that parts of Libya is slowly moving towards normalcy, Turkish Airlines has resumed service to Benghazi, and Jordan's airline, Royal Jordanian, will re-start its flight to Benghazi Thursday.

The hunt for Gadhafi, meanwhile, continues amid fighting in a few hot spots around the country. Gadhafi's son Saadi, who fled to Niger over the weekend, is being held under house arrest at a government site.

"Our understanding is, like the others, he's being detained in a state guest house and that it is appropriate that Niger and the TNC work through this together," Nuland said. "It's essentially a house arrest in this government facility, is our understanding."

Gadhafi loyalists are putting up a good fight in Bani Walid, 90 miles southeast of Tripoli. TNC fighters have not been able to take the Gadhafi stronhold, despite a two-front attack on that city of 50,000 people.

NATO warplanes softened up targets in at least two other Gadhafi strongholds overnight ahead of anticipated attacks by revolutionary forces. NATO pounded a radar, surface-to-air missile systems and vehicles near Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte. The alliance also said it pounded tanks and two armored trucks in Sabha.

(Editor's note: Moving forward the armies formerly known as "rebel forces" will be described in this blog as the provisional, revolutionary or TNC army.)

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