Securing Libya

Deputy Secretary William Burns headed up a U.S. delegation attending the Libya Contact Group meeting yesterday in Istanbul. Representatives from twenty-eight countries discussed the Transitional National Council’s (TNC) need for funds, as well as the Arab League’s expected August 27 seating of the TNC. A high-level meeting on Libya is scheduled for next week. On the sidelines in Istanbul, Burns also sat down with Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

The UN meanwhile began releasing $1.5 billion worth of frozen Libyan assets in the form of aid for the country, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks to a “new Libya.” She called on Libyans to “reach out to each other in a spirit of peace.” Opposition forces are still fighting on to secure their advances, planning to go next to Qaddafi’s hometown, Sirte, to try to track him down. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that rebels may end up asking for some outside security help. It likely will not be “a formal peacekeeping force,” but the TNC “may need UN and international community help supporting its policing needs.”

Nuland also said that Libya’s supply of yellowcake, housed at the Tajura nuclear research facility, “is secure and under any – in any case, Libya doesn’t have the means right now to turn yellowcake into anything dangerous.” She noted as well that Tripoli’s supply of mustard agent is safe at the Waddan ammunition reserve, and is also not weapons-ready. According to Nuland, U.S. envoy to Libya Chris Stevens is in contact with leaders of the TNC “to talk further about their preparation to take physical control” of the Waddan and Tajura sites.

Reports have been floating around that say that the aim of VP Joe Biden’s trip to Asia was to explain the U.S. economic situation to the region. Biden, wrapping up his visit, begged to differ: “I didn’t come to explain a damn thing.” Xi Jinping, Biden’s Chinese counterpart, is supposed to be visiting the United States before the end of 2011. China meanwhile is on the defensive, issuing a formal protest over the Pentagon’s annual assessment of Beijing’s military might. The Chinese Defense Ministry said that the report “seriously twists the facts and doesn't have a leg to stand on.”