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Rome Libya talks end with unity show, but limited progress on key issues

05-06-2011 10:06 BJT Special Report:Int'l Intervention in Libya |

ROME, May 5 (Xinhua) -- The second meeting of the Contact Group on Libya concluded here Thursday with shared calls to end the violence in the unrest-torn North African country and strong statements of solidarity among the participants.

However, much of the heavy lifting is left to the next round of talks to take place in Abu Dhabi.

The centerpiece accomplishment at Thursday's meeting was the creation of a special fund to help finance the Libyan rebels. Yet the amount firmly committed Thursday - 180 million U.S. dollars, all of it from the government of Kuwait - was far short of the 2 to 3 billion dollars the rebels said they needed.

Funding for humanitarian efforts came stronger, with pledges reaching 245 million dollars. But the main funding mechanism for humanitarian initiatives, a proposal to unfreeze some of the Libyan state assets and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's personal assets held outside the country for the rebels, will be decided by the United Nations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said she would push for at least some of the 30 billion dollars in Libyan assets blocked in U.S. banks to be unfrozen, but there were legal hurdles to that taking place quickly.

Countries attending Thursday's meeting were united in calling for an end to the violence in Libya and for Gaddafi and his family to renounce power and leave the country, but so far there is no sign any of those moves are likely to happen in the near term.

In an impassioned statement at the closing of the talks, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar and co-host of the contact group, said time was of the essence in this process.

"We don't want these meetings to be ceremonial," he said at a press briefing where he was joined by co-chairing Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, Foreign Minister from the United Arab Emirates.

His words are echoed by Abdullah, who will chair the follow-up round of talks in Abu Dhabi.

"As we speak, people in Libya are suffering and being killed. Every minute we waste means someone else in Libya suffers," he said.

"If not for the courage of the people of Libya we could not be here ... we will not let you down," he said in Arabic so that his statement could be broadcast in Libya without translation.

According to the two Arab leaders, more progress will be made at the next round of meetings in Abu Dhabi. The date for the meeting, however, has yet to be specified.

Meanwhile, Qatar's Hamad said his country would get the ball rolling on the finance end before the Abu Dhabi talks, by promising to provide at least 400 million dollars in support for the so-called Temporary Financial Mechanism, the cash to be used for the rebels.

U.S. officials said the United. States would also have a pledge ready by then, though there was no indication how much would be promised.

The final statement from Thursday's talks said they hoped "other states will do likewise" and make a firm commitment for funding.

Despite the lack of concrete progress in the Rome talks, delegates were confident that international pressure against Gaddafi was strong and likely to grow stronger.

The one area where the delegations have been far from consensus is the nature of military action, with an array of views held over whether international financial assistance should be used for purchasing arms and whether the NATO role should be expanded to include ground forces.

Expressing concerns that deteriorating Libyan crisis might have serious impacts on the region, African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said "the use of force alone has never led to any long-lasting results," calling for the launch of a political solution.

"We are very worried by the regional dimensions of the Libyan crisis because countries close to Libya are set to pay the highest price as the conflict continues," Ping said.

But in Rome, the disagreement over military actions was not a matter for contention, at least in public statements.

"On the topic of military action, the views of everybody must be respected," Qatar's Hamad said.

Frattini, the Italian co-host of the talks, predicted the process would ultimately be successful.

"Time is on our side against Gaddafi," Frattini said. "The tide is turning against him and his options are limited."

Editor:Yang Jie |Source:

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