Gaddafi's death clears hurdle in Libya

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that the death of Libya's ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, while admitting there is still a long road ahead for the country.

File photo taken on Feb. 2, 2009 shows Muammar Gaddafi reacting during the opening ceremony of the 12th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. [Xu Suhui/Xinhua]

File photo taken on Feb. 2, 2009 shows Muammar Gaddafi reacting during the opening ceremony of the 12th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. [Xu Suhui/Xinhua]

Experts here noted while Gaddafi's death clears an important hurdle for the country to move forward, daunting challenges remain in its path toward rebuilding the war-ravaged country and establishing a functioning government.

Earlier, reports first surfaced that Gaddafi, who had ruled Libya for over four decades, died of wounds after being shot in gunbattles in his hometown, Sirte.

It was later confirmed by officials of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), including head of its executive committee Mahmoud Jibril, and backed up by pictures of Gaddafi's alleged corpse with eyes half-open, shirt torn apart and a bloodied face, televised by the pan-Arab al-Jazeera TV.

Clearing of hurdle

"I think one of the important implications of this development is that this is opening the door for the beginnings of much more stable Libya," said Robert Zarate, policy director of the Washington-based Foreign Policy Initiative.

"They have a long road ahead but they've cleared an important hurdle on that long road," he told Xinhua.

David Pollock, a Middle East expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, shared a similar view. He told Xinhua that Gaddafi's death is a "milestone" in a sense that it completes the takeover of this country by the new government.

Indeed, until Gaddafi's death, thousands of Libyans have been killed and countless infrastructures been destroyed during the bloody eight-month conflict since NATO launched its military operations aimed at toppling the former regime.

With his death, hopes for stability and progress have been raised as television footage showed crowds celebrating in jubilation on the Libyan streets. Pollock believed that it may make it easier for the new government to "concentrate on the business of rebuilding the country and establishing a functioning democracy in Libya."

Daunting challenges ahead

However, no one is optimistic enough to say that Libya's future will be a smooth sailing. As a matter of fact, almost everyone agrees that the country's road forward will be full of daunting challenges.

The lengthy list includes "repairing the extensively damaged infrastructure, replenishing a drained treasury, and reconciling pro-Gaddafi tribes (primarily in the western part of the country) and the largely eastern-led interim government," said Ted Carpenter, senior fellow with the Cato Institute.

"It is highly uncertain whether any of those tasks, much less all of them, can be achieved in the near term," he told Xinhua.

Pollock pointed out another major challenge, namely "how to create a modern, stable government in the country that is run by a very erratic dictator for more than four decades."

"The Libyan people have no experience of what it means to have a representative government, to have a government that follows the law in a predictable way and a government that pays attention to what its people want," he added.

A new pro-west government?

Western countries, including the U.S., have been providing significant support to the NTC since the beginning. During her surprise visit to Libya on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed that Washington is working to return billions of dollars of frozen assets to the future government.

"Because it badly needs Western financial aid, the new government will probably remain reasonably friendly to the European members of NATO and the United States," said Carpenter.

Pollock also indicated that the new Libyan government tends to be more open to the countries that have helped overthrow the Gaddafi regime, including the U.S., Britain, France and some Arab states.

But experts cautioned that over the long run, public opinions in Libya, as in most Arab countries, will tend to be frosty toward the West, especially toward the United States.

Carpenter believed the new government will try to align its foreign policies with the leading powers in the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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