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Senior officials: U.N. to play key assistance role in Libya

By Elise Labott, CNN
  • Initial talks at a Paris meeting suggest Libyans are open to a large U.N. role
  • The global body will help with recovery, reconstruction and rule of law
  • The U.N. will take the matter to the Security Council for a resolution
  • The transitional council, however, does not want peacekeepers

Paris, France (CNN) -- Initial discussions between the interim council and global leaders suggest that the United Nations will play a key coordinating role in a post-Gadhafi Libya, senior U.N. officials told CNN Thursday.

Meetings on the sidelines of a Paris conference will address a possible U.N. mission to get on the ground as soon as possible, the officials said.

They said they expect a U.N. mandate to help with economic recovery, human rights and rule of law. Although there is no talk of U.N. peacekeepers, the mission could involve security advisers to help stand up a credible police force.

Much of this has been expected after preliminary talks between U.N. officials and leaders of Libya's National Transitional Council that took place before Thursday's meetings, the secretary-general's special adviser Ian Martin told reporters Tuesday.

"It's very clear the Libyans want to avoid military deployment by the U.N. or others," Ian Martin told reporters. "They are very seriously interested in assistance with policing to get the public security situation under control and gradually develop a democratically accountable security force."

But the time frame for security assistance is not yet known, said a senior U.N. official at the Paris meeting.

"They certainly see a need for assistance in developing a democratically accountable police force," the official said. "But it isn't clear yet on where they see their security assistance coming from in the short, medium and long term."

U.N. officials in Paris echoed Martin's statements in saying the transitional council envisions a "substantial" role for the United Nations -- in helping Libya draft a constitution and move toward elections.

The council has told the United Nations it would like to hold several elections within the next 18 months, including a constitutional referendum and presidential and parliamentary elections.

They have also expressed the desire for U.N. help in areas relating to transitional justice and national reconciliation. U.N. officials said the Libyan leaders expected to keep existing government personnel in place, except for some key regime loyalists in top positions.

To that end, Martin told CNN Thursday that the transitional council has asked him to lead a reconstruction meeting Friday in Paris with Ahmed Jehani, a former World Bank official who is Libya's new reconstruction minister.

At the meeting, the Libyans are expected to present their assessment of their immediate needs and the role of international players in various projects.

"This is a nationally owned process," Martin said. "The Libyans want to control this, as they should. They see the U.N. as the lead actor to coordinate the international community's assistance."

The United Nations wants to get people on the ground as soon as possible, the officials said and hope for an initial Security Council resolution allowing for such a presence.

After three months, officials expect to shape a year-long mission and return to the Security Council for a longer mandate.