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'Friends of Libya' converge on Paris

By the CNN Wire Staff
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed late Wednesday for the high-level meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed late Wednesday for the high-level meeting.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Representatives of some 60 countries, 10 world groups are to discuss plans for democracy
  • "The needs are enormous, A to Z," says senior State Department official
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attend

Washington (CNN) -- Representatives of some 60 countries and 10 international organizations will converge Thursday in Paris to discuss how they can speed Libya's transition to democracy.

"We've been talking all along about the importance of ultimately establishing democratic, inclusive, legitimate government in Libya," a senior State Department official told reporters in Washington on Wednesday about the meeting of the International Contact Group on Libya. "That was a sort of longer-term objective until now, and now it's before us. And that's what we need to focus on in the present."

The international organizations will include representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, NATO, the European Union and the rebels' National Transitional Council.

Also attending will be Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, Libya's neighbor and the country to which longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's wife and three of his children fled Monday. Passage was allowed on "humanitarian grounds," Algeria's representative to the United Nations in New York said Monday.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton departed late Wednesday for the high-level meeting that is intended to pay tribute to the Libyans for casting off -- with the help of NATO warplanes -- the rule of Gadhafi and help the North African nation prepare for the transition.

She is to meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at Elysee Palace, where the meeting is to be held, and with National Transitional Council Chairman Mustafa Abdul-Jalil and Libya's Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril before departing late Thursday for the return trip to Washington.

"We want to hear from them what their needs are in the area of humanitarian assistance and in the area of financial support," the senior State Department official said. Already, the United States has unfrozen $1.5 billion and Britain has unfrozen $1.5 billion in Libyan assets.

"The needs are enormous, A to Z," another senior State Department official said, citing the "shattered country" left to the Libyans by Gadhafi.

Though Libya may need some bridge loans in the early going, the oil-rich country is likely to need more technical assistance than financial aid over the longer haul, a third State Department official said. The United Nations is well placed to coordinate such requests, "but the Libyans will definitely be in the driver's seat," the official said.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland termed the contact group "the Friends of Libya" meeting.

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