NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has travelled to Tripoli for a surprise visit, on the day the organisation’s mission in Libya officially ends.
At a joint news conference with the head of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Rasmussen praised Libyans for their courage and sacrifice in liberating their country and said he was proud of the role NATO had played.
“At midnight tonight a successful chapter in NATO’s history is coming to an end. But you have already started writing a new chapter in the history of Libya: a new Libya based on freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and reconciliation,” he said.
“We know it’s not easy. We know the challenges, and if you ask us for help in areas where we can help, we will help,” he added.
The NTC had asked for NATO to stay longer. The military intervention caused sharp divisions within the alliance, and lasted much longer – and was much more expensive – than some Western nations had expected.
Tripoli airport to resume normal service
Despite the imminent end of NATO’s mission, most aircraft have remained grounded at Tripoli airport as the no-fly zone remains in place until midnight.
Commercial services are due to resume soon. So far the only planes to fly out have been carrying pilgrims to Mecca.
The commander in charge of securing the airport says his forces are in place to ensure they depart safely.
“Now the airport is starting to operate, there have been 42 flights which were specially-arranged trips, not commercial ones. As for the commercial flights, they will start at the beginning of November,” said Commander Ali Kuba of Zintan Brigade.
NATO’s chief has described the Libyan mission as one of its most successful ever.
Last week, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to end the no-fly zone and the mandate allowing “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. It brings to an end seven months of air and sea operations that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi.