Worldwide leaders hoped for a peaceful transition to democratic rule in the new Libya, with U.S. President Barack Obama leading pleas for national reconciliation.
Obama hailed the declaration of freedom in Libya on Sunday, saying “a new era of promise” is under way in the African nation. He also urged its new leaders to turn their attention to the political transition ahead.
The leader of Libya’s transitional government, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, declared the country liberated Sunday, three days after the capture and death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
In a statement issued by the White House, Obama congratulated the Libyan people and said: “After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise,” The Associated Press reported.
Obama said the U.S. looks forward to working with officials as they prepare for free and fair elections.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement later Sunday congratulating Libyans on their liberation, saying the U.S. was proud to have supported “the work of ordinary, brave Libyans who demanded their freedoms and dignity,” according to AP.
Libya’s “historical juncture”
U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, called the formal declaration of Libya’s liberation a “historical juncture” after decades of dictatorship.
In a statement, Ban stressed U.N. support for the National Transitional Council’s moves to form an interim government and hold elections.
He said the declaration of the formal end of Qaddafi’s rule was a “historical juncture that signifies a people attaining their freedom after decades of dictatorship.”
Ban said the United Nations was determined “to support the Libyan people and their authorities as they work to build this brighter future.”
After ordering an initial assault in March that took out Libya’s air defenses, Obama ceded the primary role in the Libya operation to NATO allies Britain and France, though U.S. forces maintained crucial logistical support.
"The Libyan people now have the chance to work together in a new political process, leading to a pluralistic and open society under the rule of law," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, according to AFP.
“That opportunity is within their grasp and we urge them to seize it, avoiding retribution and reprisals and ensuring that national reconciliation and reconstruction go hand in hand.”
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe paid tribute to the “courage, unity and dignity” of the Libyan people, saying: “The era of dictatorship, violence and divisions is over.”
Juppe said Paris was confident that the new leaders of the oil-rich north African country would “implement their political roadmap and put in place a representative transitional government as soon as possible.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the start of a “post-Qaddafi era” in Libya.
“The Libyan people have courageously risen up against decades of tyranny. Canada’s involvement, as sanctioned by the United Nations and led by NATO, has supported their aspirations for the future,” he said.
No clear plan for Qaddafi’s burial
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also hailed a great victory for the people of Libya.
“Their courage and determination in the cause of freedom has inspired the world,” Rasmussen said, two days after announcing that NATO would now look to wrap up its involvement in Libya at the end of the month.
“As they embark on the challenging journey from dictatorship to democracy, I call on all Libyans to put aside their differences and build a new inclusive Libya, based on reconciliation, and full respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he said.
No clear plan for Qaddafi’s burial suggests to some analysts there is justification for fears of a descent into leaderless turmoil and armed infighting, according to Reuters.
Clinton earlier Sunday said she supported calls for an investigation into Qaddafi’s death as part of Libya’s transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Qaddafi was captured wounded but alive in his hometown of Sirte. Bloody images of Qaddafi being taunted and beaten by his captors have raised questions about whether he was killed in crossfire, as suggested by government officials, or was executed.
Clinton told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” in an interview aired Sunday that she backs a proposal for the United Nations to investigate Qaddafi’s death and for Libya’s Transitional National Council to look into the circumstances.
Clinton said a democratic Libya should begin with the rule of law and accountability, as well as unity and reconciliation. She called investigating Qaddafi’s death a part of that process.
Upholding Islamic law
Some Muslims will be vexed that Qaddafi has not been given a rapid burial as demanded by Islam, although few Libyans will have shared the outrage expressed by one of his exiled sons, Saadi, about the deaths of his father and brother Motassim.
In a speech Jalil renewed an earlier promise to uphold Islamic law.
“All the martyrs, the civilians and the army had waited for this moment. But now they are in the best of places ... eternal heaven,” he said, shaking hands with supporters.
There is international disquiet about increasingly graphic and disturbing images on the Internet of abuse of what appears to be Qaddafi following his capture and the fall of his hometown of Sirte on Thursday.
An autopsy has been performed, and a medical source told Reuters that Qaddafi’s body had a bullet in the head and a bullet in the abdomen.
The autopsy was carried out at a morgue in Misrata, about 200 km (130 miles) east of Tripoli.
There is some unease abroad over what many believe was a summary execution of Gaddafi. U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay has called for an investigation into the killing, but few Libyans share those concerns.
Gaddafi's surviving family, in exile, wants his body and that of Motassim to be handed over to tribal kinsmen from Sirte. NTC officials said they were trying to arrange a secret resting place to avoid loyalist supporters making it a shrine. Misrata does not want his body under its soil.
Saadi Qaddafi’s lawyer said he was “shocked and outraged by the vicious brutality which accompanied the murders of his father and brother.”