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'Democratic change'

August 22, 2011

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has described the apparent change of power in Libya as a victory for the country's people. He said he was confident that the political transition towards democracy would be peaceful.

Libyan celebrations
Germany says Gadhafi should be put on trialImage: dapd

Germany's top diplomat, Guido Westerwelle, said Monday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's rule was "absolutely over," adding that the dictator would have to pay for his crimes in court.

"His rule was gruesome, most notably leading a war against his own people. It is good that he will also have to answer for this in front of the judges. In any case, that is our goal," Westerwelle said of Gadhafi, whom he described as a dictator. He said it was too early to decide whether the Libyan leader should face an international or domestic court.

The German foreign minister said Libyans had to fight for their freedom, saying it was a success that they now had the chance to seize this.

"We are clearly calling for a democratic change. We want the transition to take place in a peaceful, ordered manner. And I welcome the fact that the National Transitional Council has called on Libyans not to engage in any form of revenge attacks, but rather now to enable and conduct a peaceful shift towards democratic governance."

People celebrate the capture in Tripoli of Moammar Gadhafi's son and one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, at the rebel-held town of Benghazi
People in the rebel base Benghazi celebrated the capital's captureImage: AP

Westerwelle also told reporters in Berlin that some 7 billion euros ($10 billion) in frozen assets tied to the Gadhafi regime were being kept safe by the German government, and would be made available to the new Libyan government once it was ready.

"From the outset, Germany supported a political process: international isolation of and targeted sanctions against the Libyan regime. And this tactic was quite visibly effective," Westerwelle said, when asked about Germany's decision to abstain from the UN Security Council vote to impose and militarily enforce a no-fly zone over Libya this March.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the politicians who led the push for NATO intervention in Libya, said in London that his decision had been vindicated.

"Six months ago this country took the difficult decision to commit our military to support the people of Libya. I said at the time that the action was necessary, legal and right - and I believe that even more strongly today," said Cameron.

Tripoli reportedly largely controlled by rebels

Meanwhile, in the Libyan capital, rebel forces control most of the city, including the symbolic Green Square. Their arrival in this central area of the capital in the early hours of Monday prompted celebrations on the streets, with similar scenes in the rebel's eastern stronghold of Benghazi.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said earlier Monday that Gadhafi's forces held "no more than 10-15 percent of Tripoli." The rebels say they control 95 percent of the city.

Pockets of pro-Gadhafi forces remained; the whereabouts of their leader is currently unknown. Like Westerwelle, Frattini said Gadhafi had missed his chance to step down without facing trial.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi
The ICC wants to extradite captured heir-apparent Seif al-Islam GadhafiImage: AL ARABIYA

"The offers of exile were made in increasingly explicit ways numerous times. The deadline by now has passed, the only path left is that of justice - the justice of the International Criminal Court," Frattini said, referring to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman also said Monday that it appeared Gadhafi's regime was at an end.

"Gadhafi has to relinquish power now and avoid further bloodshed," Michael Mann told reporters in Brussels, also calling on the rebel-led National Transitional Council to "fully respect humanitarian and human rights law and protect citizens."

Gadhafi has ruled Libya for four decades. Two of his sons, Seif al-Islam and Al-Saadi Gadhafi, were arrested late Sunday. The ICC's chief prosecutor said Monday that his court and the rebels would discuss Seif al-Islam's extradition later in the day.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler