Diplomats In Rome Discuss Aid To Libyan Rebels

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with other members of the Libya contact group Thursday in Rome. The ministers will discuss ways of assisting the Libyan rebels in their efforts to overthrow Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer, in for Renee Montagne.

The war in Libya shows no sign of ending. This is placing increasing strain on the rebels and the civilians in the eastern part of the country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Rome today, for talks with the Libyan contact group about how to give financial aid to the re-- about how to give financial aid to the rebels. That meeting just wrapped up. It involves countries invo-- I'm sorry. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Rome today, for the meeting with the Libyan contact group. That meeting has just wrapped up. It brought together countries involved in the NATO campaign in Libya. The meeting was about how to give financial aid to the rebels and NPR's Sylvia Poggioli was waiting for news conference afterwards and she joins us now.

Sylvia?

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Well, the message delivered at the end of the meeting, to Moammar Gadhafi is that his time is up. Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said Gadhafi and his family must leave power and the country. Um, substantially, what he announced the groundwork for a constitutional process that would include a popular referendum and then parliamentary and presidential elections.

The first stage, he said, will be municipal elections in the territories now under rebel control. Frattini also announced a financial mechanism to assist the opposition in Libya. This would include a partial unfreezing of the Gadhafi regime assets in banks that would go into a temporary fund to be managed by the U.N. Sanctions Committee. And it would help the rebels with their immediate needs to cover food, medicine and hospital costs.

Frattini did not give any specific sums, but rebel spokesman have said that they need at least 1. - one and a half million dollars.

WERTHEIMER: What about Secretary Clinton, did she have a contribution as well?

POGGIOLI: Well, she did not speak at closing press conference. But during the meeting, she announced that the Obama administration has already decided to pursue some kind of legislation that would enable the U.S. to tap some portion of those Gadhafi assets in the United States and earmark them for the rebels. She also called for an increase in coordination of non-lethal assistance to the Transitional National Council and said the United States will send $25 million for use by their security forces.

Clinton also said that the international community must increase the diplomatic and political isolation of the Gadhafi regime. And before the meeting, she was asked whether the U.S. was considering a raid against Gadhafi, like that against Osama bin Laden. And she replied that the best way to protect civilians in Libya is that Gadhafi stop attacking them and leave power. She said that is the outcome we are seeking.

WERTHEIMER: So, no talk about a military solution?

POGGIOLI: The meeting did not deal directly with military issues, but there was a great concern over the fate of civilians in the areas resisting Gadhafi's military forces, especially Misrata. Yesterday, an aid ship sent by the International Organization for Migration was the target of shelling by government forces as it tried to rescue hundreds of African and Asian migrant workers. It had been waiting, for days, to enter the port because of mines laid by the government. And ah - but it was finally able to leave with more than a thousand people on board.

WERTHEIMER: We're talking to NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, who's reporting from Rome. Sylvia, thank you very much.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: As Sylvia mentioned, the ship Red Star One managed to evacuate hundreds of people from the Libyan city of Misrata - mostly migrant workers from Sub-Saharan Africa. But hundreds of Libyan civilians who wanted to flee were left behind. The ship reached the rebel-held city of Benghazi this morning. From there, evacuees will be taken across the border to Cairo in Egypt and then they will head to their home countries. So far, aid ships have rescued about 12,000 people from Misrata.

A spokesperson with International Organization for Migration said this was the sixth and most dangerous Misrata rescue mission sponsored by the group. Given the dangers, the group said it did not know when another ship might head to Misrata.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.