New Libyan leader Mohammed al-Megaryef on Monday vowed his country would not be a burden to the international community as he held his first face-to-face talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
After voicing his condolences again for a militant attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi in which four Americans were killed, Megaryef said in English: “We will not be a burden.”
The two were meeting in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, in the wake of more than a week of violent protests triggered by an anti-Islam film which saw tens of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets.
U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in the Sept. 11 assault on the Benghazi mission, along with three other diplomatic staffers, when the compound came under sustained heavy arms fire for several hours.
“I also seize this opportunity to reaffirm that what happened on 11th of September towards these U.S. citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments towards the American people,”" he added, in a softly-spoken speech, mostly through a translator, according to AFP.
He said the attack in Benghazi “was a very painful, huge tragedy, not only for the American people and the families of the victims, but also for the Libyan people.”
“The Libyan people lost a friend, lost someone who was very supportive of them, someone who was very supportive of our revolution and someone who was always there for them.”
Clinton told the Libyan leader that she wanted to thank him for his government’s efforts “to help find and bring to justice all those responsible for the attack.”
“I’d also like to thank the Libyan people for the outpouring of support they have shown to not only Ambassador Stevens, but on behalf of the United States,” she said at the start of their talks in an upscale New York hotel.
“Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years,” Clinton added.
“Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world. Mr President, that kind of courage deserves our support.”
After the talks, a senior State Department official said the two sides had reviewed the efforts made to rein in the militias, to deal with shoulder-launched missiles and other excess weapons left over from the era of toppled tyrant Muammar Qaddafi.
Clinton “offered to intensify our support and help for the Libyan government in all of those areas,” the official.
Megaryef, who is the head of the national assembly, said there were two main threats to Libyan security -- the threat from extremists, and also from remnants of the Qaddafi era.
“Security is their government’s absolute highest priority,” the U.S. official said, adding they also talked about economic challenges facing Libya as it seeks to diversify away from being dependent on petrochemicals.
The Obama administration has described the incident as a “terrorist attack,” and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a criminal investigation.
President Barack Obama, speaking at the taping of a television appearance on Monday, said the incident was clearly more than just a protest that got out of hand, Reuters reported.
“We’re still doing an investigation. There’s no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. We don't have all the information,” Obama said.