25th Oct 2016

EU officials welcome news of Gaddafi's death

Top EU officials Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso have unequivocally welcomed reports that former Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi is dead.

Often criticised for reacting late to world events and mired in the gloom of the euro crisis, the two men in a joint statement published amid breaking news of the killing said: "The reported death of Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long" and called for a process of national "reconciliation."

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  • Van Rompuy (l) wqas among the first to welcome news of the killing (Photo: AP)

They were pipped to the post only by Gaddafi's one-time friend, Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who one hour earlier said: "The war is over" and quoted a latin proverb "sic tranist gloria mundi", meaning "so passes the glory of this world."

British leader David Cameron later added: "I'm proud of the role Britain has played and I pay tribute to the bravery of the Libyans who helped liberate their country."

French defence minister Gerard Longuet noted: "If it's confirmed, it's a good outcome."

The confirmation came at around 5pm Tripoli time from the leader of the rebel council, the TNC. "We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Muammar Gaddafi has been killed," Mahmoud Jibril told a press conference in the Libyan capital.

The Qatari-based TV station Al Jazeera also published video footage of what looks like Gaddafi's half-naked and blood-stained corpse being tugged left and right by rebels in the street.

A diplomat from one Nato country hit a note of caution.

"Berlusconi said the war is over, but for us it will be over when there is no longer any military opposition. Of course, you can hope his being dead or captured would accelerate this. But it doesn't mean that the conflict is completely over tonight."

Asked what the death might signify to other authoritarian leaders in the region, such as Syria's Bashar Assad, the contact added: "I am not sure it will change anything. It's very good that after a long struggle the Libyans managed to find him and neutralise him. But he was also wanted by the ICC [the International Criminal Court in The Hague]. So it would have been equally dissuasive to have him prosecuted."

A diplomat from another Nato country said: "I am preparing for the eurogroup tomorrow and for the [EU] summit on Sunday and watching it [events in Libya] live on TV. It would be better to have him in The Hague."

Initial reports indicate that Gaddafi was hurt by a Nato air strike against a convoy of cars trying to leave his home town of Sirte. He was later found trying to hide in a concrete pipe, in an end reminiscent of the late Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussein. But it is unclear if he died from Nato-inflicted wounds or from rebel bullets.

A ministry of defence spokesman in London told the BBC: "The convoy was targeted on the basis that this was the last of the pro-Gaddafi forces fleeing Sirte."

If Nato did kill Gaddafi, it will be grist for the mill of its critics, such as Russia, which has complained since the Western war effort began in March that the West is exceeding its UN mandate of protecting civilians.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday at a press briefing with visitng Dutch leader Mark Rutte in Moscow: "We hope that there will be peace in Libya, and that all those who are governing the [Libyan] state, different representatives of Libyan tribes, will reach a final agreement on the configuration of power and Libya will be a modern democratic state."

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