During a one-day visit to Libya on Sunday, sandwiched between trips to Algeria and Tunisia, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said on Sunday his country was ready to contribute to the reconstruction of Libya following the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.
During his first visit to the country since the National Transitional Council took over the interim leadership, Westerwelle pledged that Germany would stand by Libya "as a friend and partner" as the country seeks to rebuild and establish democratic governance after last year's conflict.
"After decades of dictatorship, the country is facing some massive challenges," Westerwelle said, naming "a successful shift to a pluralist society" as the single greatest challenge.
"For the new Libya, it is in some ways a new beginning, We want to be there to ensure that you seize your opportunities," said Westerwelle, who travelled to Libya by accompanied made up of several commercial representatives.
Germany is seeking to build bridges with Libya's new leadership after in March last year it abstained in a UN Security Council vote to slap a no-fly zone over Libya, the only European Union and NATO country to oppose direct military intervention in the conflict there.
At the time, Germany sided with Brazil, China, India and Russia on the 15-member council, and Westerwelle said: "We will not take part in the military operation in Libya with the German armed forces. We have clearly decided that Germany will take no part in this war in Libya."
The abstention had not been well received by Libya's revolutionary leaders. Then, to add fuel to the fire, Gadhafi publicly thanked Westerwelle and Chancellor Angela Merkel, promising improved trade ties with Germany in the future. The rebels, meanwhile, suggested that they would remember this UN vote when establishing their own trade policies.
But last June, on a visit to Benghazi, Westerwelle recognised the NTC as Libya's legitimate rulers, saying the German decision not to take part in NATO's military mission in Libya "did not mean we were neutral."
In an interview prior to his visit to Libya, the German minister was quoted saying that the decision not to support a NATO intervention had been a difficult one to make. He said that Germany was always on the front line among those using tougher sanctions to put increased political pressure on Gaddafi. "We stood, along with our partners in the Libya Contact Group, firmly on the side of a democratic Libya," he said.
In Sunday's visit, Westerwelle also met interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keeb, who on his part expressed interest in German expertise in renewable energy technology.
(Source: Tripoli Post)