EU leaders urge reconciliation in Libya

EU said the death of Gaddafi marked "the end of an era of despotism and repression."

Brussels: European Union leaders urged Libya`s interim rulers on Sunday to start preparing free and fair elections that would lead to the creation of a broad-based government, and offered help in rebuilding the country after civil war.

At a summit in Brussels convened to tackle Europe`s debt crisis, OLKOL

"Today, Libya can turn a page in its history, pursue national reconciliation, and embrace a new democratic future," the Council of the 27 EU states said in a draft statement, which was expected to be approved without significant changes.

Officials from Libya`s Western-backed National Transitional Council, whose fighters ended four-decades of Gaddafi`s authoritarian rule after months of violence, have said elections should take place within eight months. A new national council would then draft a constitution and form an interim government.

Western diplomats say regional and tribal rivalries fostered by Gaddafi in the oil-producing state could erupt into yet more violence and damage prospects for a quick and democratic transition, and they will watch closely for signs of strife.

Deepening instability in Libya would be an embarrassment for European leaders, notably French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who have taken a leading role in Western efforts to support the uprising.

"The European Council pays tribute to the courage and determination of the people of Libya," the European governments said on Sunday.

"It looks forward to the formation of an inclusive and broad-based government, to the launch of a democratic, peaceful and transparent transition that reaches out to all Libyans and to the preparation of free and fair elections," they said.

EU states also offered more help in reconstructing state institutions in Libya.

Last month, during an international conference on Libya, EU states agreed to focus their reconstruction assistance on border management, strengthening civil society and women`s rights, and media and communications.

EU experts are expected to start preparing plans for these areas late next month and EU cash is already being spent on helping civil society in Libya and the formation of local authorities.

Bureau Report

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