British, French Leaders Visit Tripoli

France's president and Britain's prime minster are in Tripoli Thursday. They're the first foreign leaders to visit post-revolutionary Libya. Turkey's prime minister is expected to follow suit shortly.

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Libya today to show support for the revolution that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi. The two leaders promised to continue the NATO military mission until Gadhafi is captured or surrenders, and they reaffirmed commitments to help recover Libya's frozen assets.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Tripoli.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD NOISE)

COREY FLINTOFF: The two leaders pass by a crush of reporters at a Tripoli hotel for a news conference with Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the revolutionary leadership, the National Transitional Council, and Mahmoud Jibril, who's regarded as its prime minister.

MUSTAFA ABDEL JALIL: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Abdel Jalil welcomed them, and credited their action through NATO with saving the movement in the early days with air strikes that kept Gadhafi's forces from overrunning their headquarter city, Benghazi. The visit was a victory lap of sorts for both Sarkozy and Cameron, but they took pains not to show it, praising the council and the bravery of rebel fighters.

But aside from the expected cordiality, Abdurrazag Mukhtar, a council member from Tripoli, said afterward that he heard three areas of real substance.

ABDURRAZAG MUKHTAR: The continuing support of NATO until Gadhafi been arrested, the second thing is getting a chair for NTC in the United Nations, and the third thing is help of getting the frozen assets in these two countries to be used by the Libyan people.

FLINTOFF: Cameron noted that Gadhafi's forces still control parts of Libya.

Prime Minister DAVID CAMERON: We must keep on with the NATO mission until civilians are all protected and until this work is finished. We will help you to find Gadhafi and to bring him to justice.

FLINTOFF: Sarkozy said France will contact the government of neighboring Niger to discuss the detention and return of Gadhafi supporters who have fled there. He also pledged support for granting the National Transitional Council Libya's seat in the United Nations.

Although both France and Britain have companies vying for business in the new Libya, Sarkozy insisted that there was no prior agreement or expectation that they'd get favorable treatment because of their part in the NATO action. Cameron promised humanitarian aid, but stressed that the most important help would be in returning Libyan assets that Gadhafi and his top officials stashed abroad.

CAMERON: We have already unfrozen a billion pounds worth of assets. But if we can pass the U.N. resolution that we will be putting forward with France tomorrow, there's a further 12 billion of assets in the U.K. alone that we will be looking to unfreeze.

FLINTOFF: Both Cameron and Sarkozy expressed the hope that the revolution in Libya could serve as an example for people trying to extend the so-called Arab Spring to other countries. But Sarkozy was the most explicit.

President NICOLAS SARKOZY: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He said he hoped that young people in Syria would one day experience the same liberation and said he was dedicating his visit to those who hope Syria can be free.

Though both France and Britain have denounced the Syrian government's repression of pro-democracy protesters, so far neither country has proposed any intervention.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Tripoli.

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