Secretary Clinton Goes to Libya

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped by Libya today. During the surprise visit, Clinton was scheduled to meet with Libyan officials—including the Transitional National Council’s president and prime minister—and speak at a town hall meeting. Washington is meanwhile giving an additional $11 million worth of aid to the opposition. The aid package going to Libyans includes medical assistance and money and personnel to help dispose of Colonel Qaddafi’s old weapons. Clinton is the first cabinet-level U.S. official to go to Libya since Tripoli was taken by the rebels.

The clock is ticking on Washington’s troop commitment to Iraq, and officials in Baghdad still have not reached an agreement with the United States about extending a U.S. presence in country. But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is still holding out hope. “At the present time I'm not discouraged because we're still in negotiations with the Iraqis,” Panetta said yesterday. Over the weekend, however, other U.S. officials signaled that Washington was throwing in the towel and abandoning plans to keep troops on the ground after December 31.

Meanwhile, Panetta is talking to his Italian counterpart about ending the NATO air campaign in Libya. Citing ongoing clashes in Sirte, he said that as long as fighting continues, “our commanders feel the need for us to maintain our presence.” The SecDef also voiced concern about weapons from Libya ending up in the Sinai peninsula.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner spoke to Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan about economic relations, according to China’s Xinhua news agency. Details about the phone call are hard to come by. And the Quartet has scheduled meetings with the Israelis and Palestinians for October 26 in Jerusalem. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the meetings would be held “with the aim to begin preparations and develop an agenda for proceeding in the negotiations.”