World Leaders Meet To Discuss Libya's Future

World leaders met in Paris Thursday to discuss ways of helping Libya transition from decades of dictatorship and conflict to stability and democracy. The conference hosts were French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose countries took the lead in NATO operations against the forces of Moammar Gadhafi. In a message broadcast Thursday, Gadhafi called on his supporters to keep fighting, saying he will never give up.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. In a message broadcast today, Moammar Gadhafi called on his supporters to keep fighting. He said he will never give up. Meantime, world leaders met in Paris today in a demonstration that they are turning the page on the Libyan regime. Eleanor Beardsley reports on that gathering from Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIRENS)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Traffic in downtown Paris was snarled as the heads of state and diplomats from more than 60 countries arrived at the Libya conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PARADE)

BEARDSLEY: As Libya's rebel leaders walks into the Elysee Palace courtyard, an honor guard struck up a tune. President Sarkozy came out to greet them and the three men posed for the world's cameras. For the Libyans and for Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who hosted the conference, today was a proud moment. Both France and Britain shouldered much of the diplomatic and military campaign that helped end Gadhafi's dictatorship. Sarkozy, speaking through an interpreter, said the Libya campaign also showed that the West and the Arab world were not at odds.

PRESIDENT: (Through Translator) We've had here Western, European, African, Arab countries, all of which have spoken with one voice and with the same language to say that the values of democracy are absolutely universal.

BEARDSLEY: But Libya's transition to democracy won't be easy. Gadhafi stripped the country of nearly every institution that could challenge him or guide the country in his absence. Libya has no parliament, no political parties, no unions, no institutions, no constitution and virtually no civil society, but most importantly, remarked David Cameron, Libya no longer has a dictator, either.

Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON UNITED KINGDOM: Last time we met here in Paris, Gadhafi's tanks were at the gates of Benghazi, and Gadhafi was openly vowing to hunt down and kill his own people as he calls it like rats. Five months later, the Libyan people have taken their country back.

BEARDSLEY: Conference participants also included those who did not support or even openly opposed the NATO-led military intervention against Gadhafi's forces, like Russia and China. Cynical news analysts commented that no one wanted to be absent from the table when discussing Libya's vast oil reserves. World leaders agreed on keeping NATO pressure on until all pockets of resistance were eliminated and giving back the millions of dollars of Gadhafi's frozen assets to the Libyan people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led to Paris for the meeting. She remarked that it was her ninth trip in support of the Libyan people since the crisis began. But Clinton said the leaders of the Transitional National Council and the Libyans themselves had earned the world's support and respect.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON: Very difficult days. The sacrifice that the Libyan people have been willing to make in order to obtain freedom and dignity has been extraordinary. But the United States and our international partners are also proud of our own contributions.

BEARDSLEY: Transitional National Council head Abdul Jalil said Libyans had been thirsting for democracy, and he thanked the international community for betting on the Libyan people. Addressing his fellow countrymen, he said the world has stood by you. You must reconcile and now let the rule of law take over. Now, he added, everything is in your hands. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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