UK diplomats re-establish 'full presence' in Libya

David Cameron in the Commons
Image caption Earlier, David Cameron said "an army of foreign consultants" was not what Libya needed

The government has sent a team to Tripoli to re-establish a full diplomatic presence in Libya, the foreign secretary has confirmed.

William Hague said it was "another significant step" and reflected the increased stability in the capital.

He said the team would strengthen ties with the new regime and help address humanitarian needs in the Tripoli area.

At the start of the crisis in February, the UK's diplomatic base was moved to rebel-held Benghazi.

Staff from the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development are among those returning to Tripoli, with British diplomat Dominic Asquith temporarily standing in for Special Representative John Jenkins.

"It will help strengthen relations with the National Transitional Council [NTC] authorities and support their efforts to rebuild Libya," Mr Hague said.

"The team will also liaise with international organisations in order to help address humanitarian needs in Tripoli and the surrounding areas."

France and Italy have also said they are moving their embassies back to Tripoli, but the NTC is still currently based in Benghazi.

Taking the lead

Earlier, David Cameron told Parliament that the UK's "full diplomatic presence" was moving back to the capital, but he also sounded a note of caution.

The prime minister said it was vital that Libya was re-constructed by its own people, rather than foreign governments and agencies taking charge.

Libya is "fully capable of paying for its own reconstruction", Mr Cameron told the House of Commons.

"Of course there is a role for foreign advice, help and support. But we don't want to see an army of foreign consultants driving around in 4x4s giving the impression this is something done to the Libyans, rather than done by them."

Following the unfreezing of Libyan assets, he also confirmed that RAF aircraft had flown in "hundreds of millions of dinars of Libyan banknotes" to the country.

Last week, a summit in Paris agreed to release £9bn ($15bn) in withheld assets to help the country's economy to function properly.

'Finishing the job'

As well as announcing an inquiry into claims of MI6 collusion in the rendition of terror suspects, Mr Cameron also reaffirmed his commitment to military intervention in Libya.

The prime minister told MPs that Nato strikes would continue as long as Col Gaddafi was at large and a threat to civilians.

"We will not let up until the job is done," said Mr Cameron. "Britain and its Nato allies will continue to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 for as long as we are needed to protect civilian life.

"Those thinking Nato will somehow pull out or pull back must think again. We are ready to extend the mandate for as long as is necessary."

However, the prime minister also conceded that "problems from the past" must be addressed when it came to diplomatic relations between the UK and Libya.

Calls for the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, to be returned to jail in the UK or extradited to America were "obviously a matter for the Scottish Executive", said Mr Cameron.

But the prime minister also spelled out his long-held opinion that "he should never have been sent back to Libya in the first place".

Al-Megrahi - said to be close to death - was released from a Scottish prison in 2009 on health grounds, but technically remains on licence and is obliged to remain in contact with with East Renfrewshire Council.

Libyan 'courage'

On the case of Pc Yvonne Fletcher - another sensitive issue between the two countries - Mr Cameron told MPs the new regime had assured him they would "co-operate fully" with the ongoing police investigation.

The police officer was killed in 1984 while policing a demonstration outside the Libyan embassy in London. Last week Libyan officials said one of the suspects in the case, Abdulqadir al-Baghdadi, had been found dead.

Also speaking in the Commons, Labour leader Ed Miliband praised the "courage" of the Libyan people and said the government had been right to lead the way on taking action to protect civilians in the country.

"If we had not acted, we would have been spending recent months not talking about the progress of our action in Libya but wringing our hands over the slaughter in Benghazi, as we did after Bosnia," he said.

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