PM in liberator mode on first Libya trip

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy are visiting Libya for the first time since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from Tripoli.

The two leaders, whose countries' enthusiasm for an intervention proved critical in mobilising international opinion against Colonel Gaddafi, are set to visit the capital before travelling to Benghazi, the base of the national transitional council (NTC).

They met NTC chairman Abdul Jalil and prime minister Mahmoud Jabril in Tripoli, to whom they pledged a further package of UK assistance to the country.

Britain will deploy a small military liaison team for six months to help tackle small surface-to-air missiles.

An extra £600,000 will be provided to help tackle landmines and unexploded ordnance.

NGO teams of weapons decommissioning and disposal experts will be funded to take stock of Col Gaddafi's missiles and chemical weapons.

And fifty of the rebel fighters wounded in the war will be given beds at specialist hospitals in the UK.

"What the world has seen is frankly an impressive transformation," Mr Cameron said at a joint press conference with Mr Sarkozy and Libya's two new leaders.

"Of course there will be difficulties ahead, but the fact that already your roads are full again of traffic, your water is flowing, your hospitals are working, is impressive. I'm proud of the role Britain has played in helping you do this."

Previously frozen assets worth £600 million are being made available. Britain and France will attempt to pass a resolution at the UN tomorrow which could result in the unfreezing of a further $12 billion, Mr Cameron said.

Broad agreement has already been reached among the five permanent security council members, understands.

"I would like to say how proud France is to have worked hand-in-hand with its British friends," Mr Sarkozy said.

Col Gaddafi remains in hiding and has promised a "war of bees" against the rebel forces which drove him from power.

Mr Sarkozy called for Col Gaddafi to be arrested and face trial at the ICC.

"We call on all countries who are hosting wanted people to work with the international institution so that everybody is tried and brought to account for what they have done," he added.

In a message released yesterday the fugitive dictator called for the international community to pay attention to the fighting in the Sirte area. That has raised eyebrows, given he is wanted for war crimes by the international criminal court.

The NTC is making progress in establishing itself on the world stage. It will represent Libya at the UN general assembly next week and is also expected to welcome Turkish prime minster Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt's foreign minister later today.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Libya can be a great success story," Mr Cameron added.

"We are your friends but this is your country, your leadership, your plan. We want to know what it is you most want us to do."